BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Susquehanna starting pitcher Luc Kocher (Middlebury Center, Pa. / Elkland) threw his second-straight complete game as the SU baseball team captured its first-ever Landmark Conference title, defeating defending champion Moravian 5-2 on Monday afternoon at Gillespie Field.
The No. 2 seed Crusaders (28-12) put together a three-run seventh inning to break out to a 5-2 lead over the top-seeded Greyhounds, who were also ranked 22nd in the nation, and held on for the program’s first conference crown since winning the MAC Commonwealth in 1995.
SU now earns an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Baseball Tournament with the selection show occurring on Sunday, May 11.
Kocher went all nine innings for his fourth career complete game, fanning three and scattering seven hits. The senior allowed two second-inning runs but shutdown the Greyhounds (31-10) for the remainder of the contest, as Kocher finished with 106 total pitches, 69 of which went for strikes.
Sophomore third baseman Bryan Palsi (Brielle, N.J. / Manasquan) was named the tournament MVP as he went hit .462 (6-of-13) with six runs and five RBI in the three wins.
Sophomore Dylan Glassmire (Doylestown, Pa. / Central Bucks South) and freshman Tom Shields (Chalfont, Pa. / Central Bucks South) both finished with two hits apiece as the Crusaders out-hit Moravian 8-7 and took advantage of four errors by the Greyhounds.
SU fell behind 2-0 in the second inning but knotted the game at 2-2 in the bottom of the frame. Junior Kyle Semmel (Burlington Twp., N.J. / Holy Cross) drew a lead-off walk followed by freshman Dylan Jenkins (Glen Mills, Pa. / Bayard Rustin), who cracked a double down the left field line.
Shields followed with a single to center, scoring Semmel and cutting the deficit to one (2-1). Two batters later, junior shortstop Nick Kennedy (Brookeville, Md. / Good Council) tied the game on an RBI sacrifice bunt that plated Jenkins.
Despite getting a runner on third base in the fourth inning, the Crusaders failed to go ahead and the game remained tied at 2-2 until the big seventh inning outburst.
In the seventh, Shields led off the frame with an infield single and Jared Musilli (Branchville, N.J. / High Point Regional) reached on a fielder’s choice. After a bunt single by Kennedy, freshman Taylor Luckenbill (Pottsville, Pa. / Nativity BVM) came through, lifting a fly ball to left field for the sacrifice fly to score Shields to take a 3-2 lead.
Glassmire cracked a base knock up the middle to plate Musilli and pinch runner Jimmy Kinneally (Brielle, N.J. / Manasquan) made it a 5-2 game on an RBI single by Palsi.
Looking to record the final three outs of the contest, Kocher remained on the hill and retired the Greyhounds in order as the Crusaders won the Landmark for the first time in school history under the direction of ninth-year head coach Denny Bowers ’00.
During the tournament, the Crusader starting pitchers threw no fewer than seven innings with Spencer Hotaling (Selinsgrove, Pa. / Selinsgrove Area) going the distance in the opener and Casey Hood (Shrewsbury, Pa. / Susquehannock) throwing seven in yesterday’s 6-5 extra-inning win over USMMA.