The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Sports

May 31, 2014

College Baseball: Bucknell stays alive at Charlottesville Regional

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — In March of 2013, Central Pa. native Dan Weigel had a rough introduction to Davenport Field in Charlottesville, Va. Weigel gave up 11 hits in just five innings pitched in a 12-4 drubbing at the hands of Virginia.

Fast-forward 454 days later to Saturday afternoon, and Weigel stood tall on the mound at Davenport, allowing just four hits and pitching a complete game in Bucknell’s 5-2 triumph over Liberty in the elimination round of the NCAA Charlottesville regional.

The first inning resembled that of Weigel’s last outing in Charlottesville, as the Flames brought in two runs, highlighted by a solo homer from Alex Close.

The Bison then seized the lead in the bottom of the frame, allowing Weigel to settle down and retire the side in the second. On four different occasions in Saturday’s game, the Lancaster native struck out the opposing batter to end the inning and preserve Bucknell’s lead.

“When you give up runs and get in an early hole, it’s always good to see the team bounce back,” Weigel said. “They got three for me and tacked on two more in the second. I was able to pitch with a lead and be more aggressive.”

After Weigel retired Close for his sixth strikeout of the game in the eighth inning, head coach Scott Heather sent his veteran hurler back to the hill for the ninth to finish off the Flames. The senior pegged Danny Grauer to start off the frame, but was helped out by several timely grabs from the Bison outfield.

Right fielder Anthony Gingerelli snagged a fly ball to end the game and secure Bucknell’s second NCAA tournament victory all time.

“I haven’t even been (to the NCAA tournament) before, and coming into my first start in a regional and possibly my last college start, throwing a complete game is pretty cool,” Weigel said following the win.”

Heather and the Bucknell staff began evaluating the bullpen in the sixth inning, but in the end elected to sick with Weigel for the close.

“When (Weigel) came off the field in the eighth, he said that he’s finishing it; when a senior tells you that, you go with it,” Heather said. “I felt pretty good that he was confident, and he’s a workhouse: He’s thrown a lot of pitches for us over the years.”

Saturday’s win also brings Heather’s brief career with the Bison full circle. The longtime assistant’s first win as a head coach was Bucknell’s win over Harvard at Davenport Filed last spring. After another blowout loss to Virginia on Friday, Heather recorded his first NCAA tournament victory at the same venue where he earned his first career triumph.

“Except when we’re playing UVa., Davenport has been pretty good to me,” Heather said with a laugh.

Unlike Friday’s defeat, the Bison wasted little time getting on the board in the first inning. In a bit of a role reversal from the UVa game, it was a fielding error by the Flames that allowed the Bison to put a runner in scoring position, after Brett Smith advanced to second base following a throwing blunder by Close. Two batters later, Sam Clark walked, which allowed Smith to score an unearned run.

The Flames took the lead when the ensuing batter, Rob Krentzman, singled to bring home both Joe Ogren and Jon Mayer. Mayer, who went 2-for-4 on the afternoon, broke the game open in the bottom of the second, as he doubled down the left field line to score Brett Smith and Gingerelli.

“I was just trying to go up there and see the ball well and stay aggressive,” Mayer said of his at-bat that gave the Bison a 5-2 lead. “Before the game, we talked about being more aggressive at the plate, trying to see a pitch that we could put a good bat on early in the count. I just went up there, saw a good pitch, and swung at it.”

Smith, who scored from third, originally reached base off a throwing error from second baseman Ryan Seiz.

The Bison committed three errors themselves, but there was much improvement in the fielding from Friday’s game, in which Virginia scored nine unearned runs.

“I thought our outfield play was solid, running the ball down, and making some plays out there,” Heather said. “Sam (Clark) is struggling a little out there at third base; he’s a freshman and playing a little bit like a freshman. He’s been good for us all year, especially defensively. We hope he bounces back (today), because we’ll need his bat.”

RPI-wise, Saturday’s win was Bucknell’s most significant of the season by a wide margin. The Flames spent a portion of the season ranked in the top 25, and climbed to as high as 21st in the Baseball America poll. Liberty was projected as a two seed for the bulk of the year, and Heather believes that the victory was a statement for the program, and could be the spark that his team needs to pull off several more upsets this weekend.

“That’s a big deal for the program; anytime that you can compete at the national level, it’s a big deal for our program and our league,” Heather noted. “Our league is very completive top to bottom and playing all of those teams all year prepares us for these types of games, and it certainly was a great experience out there today.”

Former Danville High School standout Andrew Andreychik will take the mound for the Bison this afternoon at 1.

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