MOOSIC, Pa. – Nearly 20 years since their last NCAA playoff win, Susquehanna's baseball team defeated Keystone 5-3 on Wednesday afternoon at PNC Field in the Mid-Atlantic Regional hosted by Misericordia.
The Crusaders (29-12) plated four runs in the bottom of the second and held off a ninth-inning rally by the CSAC champion Giants (27-13).
Junior starting pitcher Spencer Hotaling (Selinsgrove, Pa. / Selinsgrove Area) earned his fifth win of the season—his third victory in the past four starts—as the righty fanned seven and only walked one, while scattering nine hits.
SU pounded 10 hits, including three by freshman first baseman Dylan Jenkins (Glen Mills, Pa. / Bayard Rustin). Sophomore Bryan Palsi (Brielle, N.J. / Manasquan) and junior Nick Kennedy (Brookeville, Md. / Good Council) both finished with two hits apiece.
Senior closer Matt Smith (Blue Ridge Summit, Pa. / Wyoming Seminary) pitched a flawless ninth inning for his 11th save of the year, extending his Landmark Conference career record to 23 saves.
The contest was close until the bottom of the second when the Crusaders exploded for four runs in the frame. Palsi led off the inning with a double to left followed by a bunt single by junior Kyle Semmel (Burlington Twp., N.J. / Holy Cross).
Jenkins then ensued with an RBI base knock to center, scoring Palsi, and handing SU a 1-0 lead. After Rob Marcickiewicz (Red Bank, N.J. / Middletown South) was hit by pitch to load the bases with no outs, Jared Musilli (Branchville, N.J. / High Point Regional) drew a walk to add to the Crusader lead, 2-0.
Kennedy cracked a single through the left side for an RBI and sophomore Dylan Glassmire (Doylestown, Pa. / Central Bucks South) drew another bases-loaded walk to hand SU the 4-0 edge.
From that point, both SU and Keystone would get base hits but would not threaten to score until the seventh when the Giants strung together consecutive singles. But Hotaling came through with a critical pick-off at second base and a pop-up to shortstop to end the Keystone chance.
But the Giants ruined the shutout in the eighth on a two-out double through the left side. However, the Crusaders tacked on an insurance run in the bottom of the frame as Ty Raubenstine (Elizabethville, Pa. / Upper Dauphin Area) scored on an error by the Giants' shortstop to put SU ahead 5-1 with only three outs to go.
Keystone did not go away quietly and plated two runs to get within two, 5-3, before a sliding catch by left fielder Musilli ended the rally and the contest for the program's first NCAA postseason win since 1995.
The Crusaders play Rowan (33-10) tomorrow at 7:45 p.m. The Profs defeated Wesleyan (Conn.) 7-2 in Wednesday's final game.