Statement win: MC collects 15 hits in 14-2 rout of PSU-Berks

With a sour taste in their mouths from last week’s OAC Tournament, the Marietta College Pioneers were hoping to open NCAA Division III Mideast Regional play in a big way.

The top-seeded Etta Express did just that, trouncing eighth-seeded Penn State-Berks 14-2 Wednesday at Don Schaly Stadium.

In other tournament action on the first day, third-seeded Salisbury (34-7) edged OAC tournament champion John Carroll University (24-16), 9-8, and Widener (32-11) downed LaRoche, 8-1. In the last game of the day, there was a lightning delay, but Thomas More and Case Western Reserve were able to resume play in the first inning at 10:45 p.m.

Case then went on to claim a 6-2 triumph.

Marietta (30-14) amassed 14 runs on 15 hits and starting pitcher Christian Herstine allowed just two runs on four hits in seven strong innings against the Nittany Lions (19-20).

“Today we just stuck all fastballs,” said Herstine, who struck out nine and walked one. “The curve ball really didn’t show up until the fifth inning. It was nice that our team just kept hitting and pounding on the runs. It really helps pitch when your team is backing you up like that.”

Herstine (9-1), recently named Kent Tekulve OAC Pitcher of the Year, held PSU-Berks hitless through the first four innings of the game. After Marietta’s lineup tallied three runs in the opening inning, Herstine was able to pitch more confidently with the early lead.

“As soon we get a lead it just relaxes me a lot more,” Herstine said. “Takes a little bit of pressure off and you can just throw easier.”

PSU-Berks head coach Justin Konnick agreed that the first inning set the tone.

“It would have been big to get out of that first inning without any runs,” Konnick said. “Playing a good team like Marietta, you can’t give them an inch or they’re gonna take a foot.”

Penn State-Berks starter Luke Erb almost escaped the first inning without giving up any damage. After Christian Demko doubled to lead off the inning, Erb retired two of the next three batters to put runners on the corners with two down. However, MC captured a little two out lightning as Chris Winpigler, Tyler Packanik and Dylan Gracia all produced run-scoring singles to make it a 3-0 game.

“Early leads are good leads,” said MC skipper Brian Brewer. “Any lead is a good lead, but early leads especially. Christian (Demko) did a nice job. First (at-bat), got a pitch up in the zone and made the most of it. We kind of manufactured that first one and then got some big two-out knocks after that. Very good first inning, certainly getting us off on the right foot.”

Marietta added another run in the fourth on a Zak Bukiewicz RBI-single that plated Tim McCoy. The game was broken open in the fifth when the Pios plated four more runs to make it an 8-0 game. Winpigler had a two-run single and Gracia hit a run-scoring base knock to lead the rally.

Herstine labored slightly in the sixth and seventh innings, allowing a run in both frames, and gave way to the bullpen in the eighth.

Mitch McNabb and Mike Fulton threw a perfect eighth and ninth inning, respectively, to send the Pioneers to the winner’s bracket. They play Widener at 4:30 p.m. today at Schaly Stadium.

“They’ve got a realy good club and that’s gonna be a great test for us,” Brewer said.

The Nittany Lions will attempt to avoid elimination against LaRoche at 9:30 a.m.

“They should expect to go out and play better,” Konnick said. “At least I expect them to go out and play better. They’re a better team than that.”

Gracia was one of several Pioneers who had superb performances at the plate Wednesday, going 4-for-5 with four runs batted in and a double

“I’ve been working hard in the cages and getting my timing down, my rhythm,” Gracia said. “It just came all into play today.

“There was definitely something to prove. We just wanted to show who we were, the No. 1 seed coming into the regional. We just wanted to play fast and I think that’s what we did.”

Winpigler was 3-for-5 with four RBI and a double. Hanahan was 3-for-5 with three runs scored. Packanik was 2-for-4 with two RBI and Demko had a double.

Ryan Tantala was the only PSU-Berks hitter with multiple hits, going 2-for-4 with a run scored.

Erb (0-4) lasted 4.1 innings, surrendering eight runs (seven earned) on nine hits.

Today, LaRoche is also slated to play PSU-Berks; JCU faces Thomas More; and Salisbury will be pitted against Case Western.