WEST LIBERTY, W.Va. – A ninth-inning rally came up short for the West Liberty baseball team here Tuesday as defending Atlantic Region champion Seton Hill (Pa.) held on for a 7-4 win in a scheduled 9-inning non-conference game at Kovalick Field.
The Griffins (25-14) scored at least once in each of the first five innings to open up a 7-3 lead but Coach Eric Burkle's Hilltoppers (11-31) made things interesting in the bottom of the ninth.
Trailing 7-3, Ty Helmke started the ball rolling with a one-out double into the right field corner. Jake Sherman followed with his third single of the day to trim the deficit to 7-4.
Seton Hill reliever Jack Laird retired Ryan Talbert on a fly ball to left for the second out but hit Brad Goodyear with a pitch to put runners on first and second.
That brought Connor Ferguson to the plate representing the tying run and SHU head coach Mark Marizzaldi called Caiden Wood out of the bullpen to replace Laird.
The hard-throwing Wood ran the count to 1-2 on Ferguson before nailing down the save with a blistering fastball at the knees on the outside corner for a called strike three.
Sherman continued his incredible hot streak at the plate for the Black and Gold. The freshman outfielder's three hits in a 3-for-4 game gave him 15 hits in his last 22 at-bats and pushed his batting average to an eye-popping .424. Sherman also reached base on a walk while driving in one run and scoring another.
Helmke had a double and single while Ferguson also had a multi-hit game with a pair of base knocks as the Hilltoppers smacked out 11 hits against a quartet of Seton Hill hurlers. Kaden Blomquist's two-run double highlighted a three-run third inning for WLU. Blomquist scored on Zach Hawkins' RBI single.
Sam Aulick had a strong outing out of the bullpen for the hosts, retiring 9 of the 10 batters he faced while shutting out the Griffins on one hit over the final three frames.
The Hilltoppers, now just three games out of the third and final MEC Tournament spot in the MEC North, return to conference play this weekend with a four-game series against Fairmont State. The Falcons invade Kovalick Field for a pair of 1 p.m. doubleheaders on Saturday and Sunday.
Seton Hill (Pa.) 7, West Liberty 4
Seton Hill (Pa.) 211 210 000 - 7 13 1
West Liberty 003 000 001 - 4 11 2
SHU: Faris wp (1SO, 0W), McGraw (5) (3SO, 2W), Laird (8) (1SO, 1W), Wood (9) (1SO, 0W) and Rauso. Mandler 2D, S, 2rbi; Durham D, S; DiAndreth 2S, 3rbi; Orr 2S, rbi; McDermott 2S; Rauso S, rbi
WLU: Geis lp (2SO, 2W), Ash (4) (1SO, 2W), Sinisgalli (6) (0SO, 2W), Aulick (7) (0SO, 0W) and Z.Hawkins. Sherman 3S, rbi; Helmke D, S; Ferguson 2S; Blomquist D, 2rbi; Hawkins S, rbi; Talbert D.