WASHINGTON, D.C. – Penn State Harrisburg put itself in the driver's seat of the North Eastern Athletic Conference's (NEAC) postseason championship tournament by winning both of its opening round games on Friday, May 3. The Lions dismantled Penn State Abington 9-1 in their first outing of the day before holding off Penn State Berks 4-3 in their final contest of the afternoon.
Penn State Harrisburg, the tournament's number three seed, got two stellar outings on the mound from junior Jim Klingerman (Telford, Pa. / Souderton) and sophomore Will Chaney (Lancaster, Pa. / Lampeter-Strasburg). A NEAC second-team all-conference honoree, Klingerman threw a complete nine-inning game in the opener, allowing seven Abington hits and just one run to go along with his four strikeouts. His seven wins lead not only the team, but the conference as well. Chaney threw 8.2 innings and gave up just five hits and three runs, none of which were earned. He struck out five batters and picked up his fourth victory of the year.
After battling through two scoreless innings, the Lions struck first against Penn State Abington in game number one when junior Ross Baker (Hummelstown, Pa. / Lower Dauphin) singled deep in the hole to shortstop and plated junior Travis Crammer (Cerritos, Calif. / Cerritos) in the top of the third.
The Blue & White worked out of a potential jam in the bottom of the fifth when sophomore catcher Tim Gonzalez (Whittier, Calif. / St. Paul) picked off Abington's Pete Moran at first base. He made his second big play of the half inning when he threw out A.J. Vagliani attempting to steal second. Klingerman sat down the opposing Lions 1-2-3 in the bottom of the sixth and the Harrisburg offense went back to work in the seventh.
Junior Colton Houseal (Maytown, Pa. / Donegal) got things started with a single to center field and sophomore Branden Rutt (Ephrata, Pa. / Ephrata) was hit by a pitch. Freshman Bryan Balshy (Palmyra, Pa. / Palmyra), the NEAC Rookie of the Year, moved the runners along with a groundout to third base and Baker came through again by singling through the left side, scoring the pair of all-conference second-team selections and putting Penn State Harrisburg ahead 3-0.
The Lions weren't done however, and they added to their advantage in the visitor half of the eighth stanza. Sophomore John Cataldo (Pine Grove, Pa. / Pine Grove) led off with a double to left field and Gonzalez moved him to third base with a single. Junior Dalton Trolinger (Carlisle, Pa. / Cumberland Valley) scored Cataldo with a fielder's choice and Balshy picked up his 40th RBI of the season when his single through the left side plated Gonzalez. Baker drove in another run by singling past the shortstop and his fellow Lower Dauphin alum in freshman Clay Thrasher (Hummelstown, Pa. / Lower Dauphin) used a bases-loaded walk to score Rutt and extend the lead to 7-0.
Abington scored its lone run of the contest in the bottom of the eighth but the Blue & White answered right back in the top of the ninth. Houseal's single to left field drove in Trolinger and Balshy's single to right field plated Crammer.
Baker had a day at the plate, going 3-6 with a game-high 4 RBIs. Balshy was 3-5 with two RBIs of his own and Houseal was 2-6 with an RBI and a run scored. Crammer, a NEAC all-conference first-team selection, scored twice in the opener, as did Rutt and Trolinger.
Game two was a different story for Penn State Harrisburg. The Lions fell behind early when Penn State Berks took advantage of a Blue & White error and jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first.
Harrisburg responded by tying the score in the home half of the first. Crammer led off with a single to center field and back-to-back groundouts by Houseal and Rutt moved him along to third base. Balshy's two-out single to centerfield plated Crammer and gave him his NEAC-leading 42nd RBI of the spring.
The Lions took a 2-1 advantage in the bottom of the second when Houseal's two-out single to right field scored Trolinger from second base.
Penn State Berks took advantage of Harrisburg's second error of the game in the next half-inning when Ryan Tantala singled with two outs and drove in Christian Marcin and Clint Faust to swing the lead back in favor of the opposing Lions at 3-2.
Chaney settled in nicely in the contest's middle innings and set down Penn State Berks' batters 1-2-3 in the top of the fourth, fifth and sixth innings. In the bottom of the sixth, the Harrisburg offense rewarded him for his hard work on the mound.
Gonzalez reached base on a fielder's choice and Trolinger singled down the left field line. Both men advanced a base on a wild pitch and Crammer's sacrifice fly to deep center field drove in Gonzalez and tied the score at 3-3. Houseal came through in crunch time once more when his two-out single scored Trolinger from second base for the second time and gave his team a 4-3 lead it would not relinquish.
Chaney allowed just one base runner through the next two innings and got the first two outs in the top of the ninth. Needing just one out to secure the victory, Penn State Harrisburg Head Coach turned the ball over to Will's brother Tom Chaney (Lancaster, Pa. / Lampeter-Strasburg). He needed just five pitches to get Berks' Keeanu Erb to ground out to Crammer at second base. The save was Chaney's NEAC-leading fifth of the year.
Trolinger led the way offensively against Berks, going 3-3 with a walk and two runs scored. Houseal went 2-3 with two RBIs while Crammer was 1-4 from the plate with an RBI and a run scored. Baker stayed hot and went 2-4 with a double to left field.
By winning both games on day one, the Lions earned a bye while Abington, Berks and the tournament's number one seed in Gallaudet will battle it out on Saturday afternoon to see who will meet the Blue & White in the championship round on Sunday, May 5. Penn State Harrisburg's next game gets underway at 10 a.m.