NEW CASTLE, Del. – No. 2 seed Felician College won the 2014 Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference Baseball Tournament by defeating event host and top seed Wilmington (Del.) University, 8-3, in the first game of the championship round on Saturday afternoon at Wilson Field. Wilmington (34-9-1) is ranked No. 11 in the most recent national NCAA Division II writers' poll.
The CACC championship is the first for Felician in the sport of baseball in the 15-year history of the program. The Golden Falcons had won two regular-season crowns (2002, 2012) and had twice finished as the tournament runner-up (2006, 2012). With the title, Felician advances to its first NCAA Tournament. The field and pairings will be announced on NCAA.com on Sunday night.
"This is one of the really special moments of my life," said 11th year Felician head coach Chris Langan of Hazlet. "I think you appreciate it more having to wait so long for it, and you respect the guys who have won it before you and the teams, like a Wilmington, who have put together continued success."
Felician, which came out of the winners' bracket, needed one victory on Saturday to claim the title. The Golden Falcons (29-18), who matched their program record for wins, took control by breaking a 2-2 tie with four runs in the top of the sixth inning. With runners on second and third and none out, Joe Petosa (Spotswood, N.J.) drove a ball to the base of the right field fence for a double. Only one runner was able to score, but the shot gave Felician the lead for good and was also the 218th hit of Petosa's career, snapping a tie with former teammate Mickey Zudonyi for the all-time Felician lead.
Following a pitching change, a strikeout and an intentional walk, the Wildcats were unable to pick up an out on Jordan Tackett's (Fredericksburg, Va.) squeeze bunt. Wilmington changed pitchers again, but Felician junior catcher Korey McGuiness (Jackson, N.J.) drove a two-run single to cap the rally for a 6-2 edge.
Sophomore right-hander John Holland (Jackson, N.J.) entered the contest for the Golden Falcons and worked the rest of the game. In four innings, he gave up one run on five hits, struck out six batters and walked none. He was credited with his fourth save of the season. Felician tacked on single runs in the seventh and eight frames to hold the Wildcats at bay.
"Our guys believed in themselves," Langan said. "They adapted to every situation. They certainly lived up to the AOD motto we've been going with all season – Adjust or Die."
After earning the victory in relief on Friday, senior right-hander Stephen Paladino (Staten Island, N.Y.) started on the mound for Felician on Saturday and pitched into the fifth inning. He surrendered two runs on three hits in 4 1/3 frames. Jack Fowler (Shrewsbury, N.J.) (9-2) got the last two outs of the fifth and was credited with the victory. Fowler became the Golden Falcons' all-time winningest pitcher with his 16th career triumph, and tied another school mark with his ninth win of the season. Both standards were set by Chris Eshleman.
Petosa finished 3 for 4 with two doubles, two runs, and two RBI and was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player. Scott De Jong (North Haledon, N.J.) and Jay Collazo (Wall, N.J.) added two hits apiece and Brennan Price (Middlesex, N.J.) had a two-run double in the fourth. Sam Goines (Wilmington, Del.) was 3 for 4 for the Wildcats, who used eight pitchers.
The game lasted three hours, 28 minutes.
Overall, Saturday is the 13th CACC title for the Felician athletics program. The Golden Falcons have won nine in men's cross-country, two in men's soccer and one in men's basketball.
"I'm even happier for all the people involved in this," Langan said. "From our president, Dr. Anne Prisco, who drove down to New Castle today, to our athletic director, J.R. DiNallo, who gave me this opportunity, to our coaching staff and support staff. And it was really fun to see our fans get so totally caught up in the moment."