Extra Innings: Presidents baseball makes second trip to College World Series in three years

The 2019 season was another historic one for the W&J baseball team, which finished with 38 wins and its second trip to the NCAA Division III Baseball Championship in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

The 38 wins mark the second-most during a single season in program history, trailing only the 42 wins during the 2017 run to the College World Series when W&J finished as the nation’s runner-up.

As a team, the Presidents secured their 12th Presidents’ Athletic Conference title with an 8-1 win over Bethany College May 11. A win over nationally-ranked Salisbury and a pair of victories against perennial national contender Rowan University claimed the Salisbury Regional for the Red and Black May 19.

W&J continued its strong play the following weekend when they traveled to Misericordia University. The Presidents earned a sweep of the three-game series against the Cougars to claim the Super Regional and earn a berth in the Division III College World Series.

The Presidents went 1-2 at the College World Series in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. W&J dropped its opener in a 6-3 loss to Chapman University before responding with a 3-2 win over Webster University in an elimination game. The Presidents concluded the 2019 season with another elimination game, a rematch against Chapman with an 8-4 result.

W&J finished the season with a 9-2 record during postseason play. The team was ranked No. 6 in the final D3baseball.com Top 25 poll, while earning the No. 7 ranking in the season-ending American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA)/Collegiate Baseball Newspaper Top 30. The Presidents compiled a 5-3 record against opponents that finished the season in the rankings.

After guiding the Presidents to a 38-13 record and the program’s second Division III College World Series appearance in three seasons, head coach Jeff Mountain was recognized as Presidents’ Athletic Conference Baseball Coach of the Year for an eighth time. In late June, Mountain was lauded as NCAA Division III Mideast Region Co-Coach of the Year by the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA).

Mullen Socha ’19 became the seventh All-American in program history as he was selected to the ABCA/Rawlings All-America Third Team. Additionally, Socha was named First Team All-Mideast Region by the ABCA. Socha added First Team accolades from the PAC and the Eastern College Athletic Conference, while picking up Third Team All-Region honors from D3baseball.com.

Socha ranked among the best in program history in several statistical categories. He ranks seventh in career batting average (.363), sixth in career runs scored (131), ninth in career home runs (15), fourth in single-season hits (72), fourth in single-season doubles (18), second in single-season at bats (201), fifth in single-season RBI (51), and tied for sixth on the single-season home run list (8).

Ben Marsico ’20 earned several postseason honors as the junior pitcher was named PAC Pitcher of the Year, along with First Team honors from the PAC and the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC). Marsico was named Second Team All-Mideast Region by the ABCA and Third Team All-Mideast Region by D3baseball.com.

Marsico compiled an 11-2 record with a 3.27 earned run average with two shutouts over 88.0 innings of work. His 11 wins tied for fourth most among all Division III pitchers in 2019. Marsico walked just 10 opposing batters and did not allow a home run all season.

Dante Dalesandro ’19 and Mitchell Taufer ’19 picked up All-Region honors from the ABCA and D3baseball.com, respectively. James Artale ’19 was named Second Team All-ECAC.

Dalesandro finished the season with a .355 batting average with 41 RBI and 53 runs scored. Taufer was outstanding out of the W&J bullpen, allowing just five runs in 36.2 innings, which equates to a 1.23 ERA. Taufer struck out 46 while limiting opposing hitters to a .164 batting average. Artale excelled in the middle of the order, hitting .325 with seven home runs and 46 RBI. Artale ripped a pair of home runs and tallied nine RBI in three PAC Tournament games.

A total of nine Presidents collected All-PAC honors while Marsico took home Pitcher of the Year honors.

Tanner Gaerke ’19 earned the first prestigious Elite 90 award for W&J while at the 2019 NCAA Division III Baseball Championship. Gaerke was presented with the award during the opening ceremonies prior to the championship competition.

This NCAA award honors the individual who has reached the pinnacle of competition at the national championship level in his or her sport, while also achieving the highest academic standard among his or her peers. The Elite 90 is presented to the student-athlete with the highest cumulative grade-point average participating at the finals site for each of the NCAA’s championships.

Gaerke graduated from W&J with a major in accounting, completing 160 credits with a 3.938 GPA.

Along with his strong academic prowess, Gaerke has compiled a 4-3 record with a 2.97 earned run average during his four-year career with the Presidents. Gaerke’s on-field highlight in 2019 was allowing just one run over 7.0 innings during a non-conference victory over Mount Union May 1.