Mercyhurst Magazine Summer 2015

Baseball’s magical season reaches D-II World Series By David Leisering ’01

For years, the Mercyhurst baseball team had been on the cusp of advancing to the Division II College World Series but ended up falling just short. That goal fnally became a reality this year when junior closer Jake Hall registered the fnal out in a 2-0 victory over arch-rival Millersville University in the Atlantic Regional Championship. Thanks to a phenomenal 2015 regular season, Mercyhurst was the top-ranked team in the region and hosted the Atlantic Regional Tournament at Jerry Uht Park in downtown Erie. “We hosted it here in 2000, my frst year as a head coach,” said Head Coach Joe Spano after defeating Millersville. “I don’t think I appreciated it – how great it was, what a beautiful venue it was, how much of an advantage home feld was. We were committed to winning this thing one way or the other.” Mercyhurst topped West Virginia State 3-1 in the opening game of the regional on May 14, but then lost to Seton Hill on day two, forcing the Lakers to win out to advance. The path would not be easy. On May 16, Mercyhurst needed 11 innings, but defeated West Chester 6-4. Mercyhurst had to return later that night to play Winston-Salem State, the only unbeaten team remaining. That game against the Rams seemed to be the point where something magical was about to happen.

Having used his other weekend starter (junior Matthew Jaskolka) in the frst game of the day, Spano turned to redshirt senior Jon Corbi against Winston-Salem. Corbi had success in the past but pitched in only two games during the 2014 season due to arm injuries. Before his start in the regional, Corbi hadn’t pitched a game in roughly a month. He delivered a gem, striking out seven in 4.2 scoreless innings, and the bullpen did the rest. The Lakers advanced to the title game with a 2-1 win in the wee hours of Sunday morning. The Lakers had to come right back early Sunday afternoon to attempt to win their third game in 24 hours. Spano turned to redshirt sophomore Colin McKee, who had already pitched the opening game of the tournament. McKee, like Corbi, lasted 4.2 scoreless innings and struck out eight before giving way to the bullpen. Mercyhurst scored a run in the sixth and another in the seventh to take a 2-0 lead. Hall, pitching for the fourth time in fve tournament games, blanked Millersville over 2.2 innings to earn his third save of the regional and to break the school record for saves in a season (10). He was named Tournament MVP for his eforts. “It just felt like something I dreamed about for a long time,” said Spano, who is four wins shy of 500 for his career with the Lakers. “I wasn’t sure if it was real. I just had to focus on the game and make sure we got the outs we needed. We had our other closer, Ben (Nolan), up in the bullpen because we didn’t know how much Jake (Hall) had left in the tank. He gave us

everything he had and it was one of the most unbelievable performances I have seen.” Mercyhurst wasted little time once it reached the USA Baseball National Training Complex in Cary, North Carolina, posting a 3-1 victory over Truman State, in 11 innings, to advance to the winners’ bracket. The game wasn’t without some tense moments. With the game tied 1-1, Truman State loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the ninth. Hall fell behind 3-0 on the Bulldogs’ leadof hitter before striking him out on the next three pitches. Hall then got out of the jam with a force out at home to end the inning. Junior Brendan Cox delivered the go-ahead run with an RBI single in the top of the 11th and Hall remained in the game to record his frst win of the season. The Lakers, however, would lose their next two games – one to eventual national champion Tampa – to end their historic run with a 40-11 overall record. Mercyhurst put together, arguably, the most dominant season in program history. The Lakers won their frst 14 games of the season before sufering their frst loss at Slippery Rock on March 24. That loss didn’t faze the Lakers as they rattled of another 11 consecutive victories to improve to 25-1. Expect the Lakers to make another run at the Division II National Championship in 2016.


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