MARIETTA – For the 23rd time in program history, the Marietta College baseball time is headed to the College World Series.
The team bus is set to depart for Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Wednesday morning. The top-seeded Etta Express plays the eighth-seeded Catholic Cardinals in the first game of the tournament at 11 am EST / 10 am CST Friday at Perfect Game Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Marietta has yet to lose a postseason game this season – the Pioneers (43-5) went 3-0 in the Ohio Athletic Conference, 3-0 in the Regional and 2-0 in the Super Regional. They’re outscoring opponents 100-31 in eight postseason games.
Catholic (34-14) is led by head coach Ross Natoli, in his 37th year at the helm. The Cardinals also feature the Landmark Conference Player of the Year (Peter Giombetti), Pitcher of the Year (Tucker Alch) and Rookie of the Year (Dante Pozzi).
“They’re going to be super talented and very well prepared,” said Marietta head coach Brian Brewer.
“With the format being two pods, we’ll be able to focus on the other three teams in our pod – Catholic, Wisconsin-Stevens Point and Salisbury. (Coaches) Mike Mulvey and Chad Langley will do all of the scouting. We’ll be ready. “
The tournament is a double-elimination format until there is one team left in each pod. Then, those two teams play a best-of-three series with the winner claiming the national championship. The other sub consists of Eastern Connecticut State, LaGrange, Trinity and fellow Ohio Athletic Conference team Baldwin Wallace. Depending on how the bracket shakes out, the tournament could go all the way through Wednesday, June 8.
Marietta plans to go with left-hander Trent Valentine on the bump against Catholic. Valentine is 13-1 this season with a 2.15 earned-run average. Isaac Danford (5-1, 2.25 ERA) and Brett Carson (6-2, 4.09 ERA) are the most likely No. 2 and 3 starters, with relief ace Sam Mathews (5-0, 1.31 ERA, 13 saves) ready whenever Marietta gets a late lead.
With the Pioneers making quick work of teams throughout the tournament so far, they haven’t had to go too deep into their pitching depth, yet. Brewer is confident in the back-end of the pitching staff should it be tested in Iowa.
“We’ve had some opportunities with big leads to get guys working,” he said. “Trent’s thrown on three-days rest a couple of times. Sam is as durable as it gets. We feel good about our front-end guys and the guys who may not have had the opportunity to shine yet. We’re going to need them all. ”
The Etta Express is batting .384 as a team this year, with five everyday starters batting .400 or better. Damian Yenzi has team-highs of 12 home runs and 69 runs-batted-in. Brett Carson and Logan Vietmeier have 10 home runs apiece, while Drew Holderbach (59), Vietmeier (54) and Turner Hill (51) all have 50-plus RBIs.
Giombetti leads the Cardinals with a .373 average to go along with 15 homers and 59 RBIs. For game one, Catholic likely will give the mound nod to Alch, who is 10-3 with a 3.31 ERA this season. He’s struck out 117 batters in 92 1-3 innings.
The winner between Marietta and Catholic will play the winner between Salisbury and Wisconsin-Stevens Point at 2:15 pm EST / 1: 15 pm CST Saturday, while the losers of both games will play in an elimination game at 11 am EST / 10 am CST Saturday.
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