Pioneers to host regional Wednesday

MARIETTA – For the fourth time in five years, Marietta College will host the NCAA Division III Mideast Regional. Eight teams, including the top-seeded Pioneers (29-14), will try to fight their way through the double-elimination tournament and earn a spot in the national championship series at Fox Cities Stadium in Appleton, Wis., from May 23-27.

This is Marietta’s 39th appearance in an NCAA regional and the Pioneers have won more national championships than any other program with six, including back-to-back in 2011 and 2012.

Marietta’s 2014 season hasn’t been quite as smooth as those years. The Etta Express went 1-2 in the Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament this past weekend, losing to John Carroll and Baldwin Wallace.

Now Coach Brian Brewer’s team is trying to swing the momentum this week as two losses mean the end of the season.

The Pioneers open with eighth-seeded Penn State-Berks (19-19), who is making its second regional appearance after defeating SUNY Institute of Technology in the North Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament. The first pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m., Wednesday, May 14.

Marietta is 1-3 in its last four games and sports a 10-8 record at Don Schaly Stadium, which is playing host to a regional for the 15th time. The Pioneer bats went cold in the OAC Tournament and are looking to break out of the mini-slump.

Senior outfielder Josh Ungerbuehler, a second team all-conference selection, leads the team with a .360 average and nine stolen bases. Junior third baseman Ryan Hanahan, an honorable mention choice, has watched his average climb to .307 with three home runs and six stolen bases.

Junior catcher Chris Winpigler, a second team All-OAC choice, is hitting .354 with three homers and 31 RBI. Junior first baseman Mitch Geers, also a second team all-conference pick, leads the team with five home runs.

Marietta’s top two pitchers – sophomore Christian Herstine (Beaver, Pa./Beaver Area) and sophomore Jason Byers- were also two of the best in the OAC. Both were first team All-OAC and Herstine was named the Kent Tekulve Pitcher of the Year.

The Nittany Lions have some solid bats in the lineup, including sophomore Tom Grablewski. The second baseman is hitting a team-high .367 with 30 RBI. Junior first baseman Kyle Hartman is hitting a solid .348 with 22 RBI, while sophomore catcher Nick Zipay is hitting .345 with six doubles and 12 stolen bases from the leadoff spot in the order.

Depending on weather, the schedule includes four games on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Action begins with No. 4 Widener (31-11) facing No. 5 LaRoche at 9:30 a.m., Wednesday.

Squaring off in the third game on Wednesday (scheduled for 4:30 p.m.) is third-seeded Salisbury (33-7) and sixth-seeded John Carroll (24-15). It will be the first meeting between the two squads, which both won their respective conference tournaments to earn automatic bids into the regional.

The final game of the first day will pit second-seed Case Western Reserve (30-10) against seventh-seed Thomas More (23-17). This season, the Spartans claimed a share of a second consecutive University Athletic Association Championship and became just the second team in program history to reach 30 wins.

Games will continue on Thursday starting at 9:30 a.m. and continue throughout the day. Single game tickets are $6 for adults and $4 for senior citizens/students, while single day passes are $12 and all-tournament passes are $35.