Penn State DuBois baseball wins the 2023 USCAA national championship

The team has now won four of the past five championships
The 2023 USCAA baseball national champions, Penn State DuBois

The 2023 USCAA baseball national champions, Penn State DuBois.

Credit: Penn State

DuBOIS, Pa. — Adversity — that is something that the baseball team at Penn State DuBois knows all about. After starting out the season slowly, including a spring break trip that saw them post just one win in seven games, to having numerous games rescheduled or outright cancelled by weather, to struggling to win games at the start of Penn State University Athletics Conference (PSUAC) play, the Nittany Lions have been fighting the entire season to achieve their dreams of a PSUAC championship and a U.S. Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA) national championship. At several points during the season, it looked like neither of these goals would be achievable. But the players and coaches never gave up and kept working hard to drive toward what they had set out to attain at the start of the season. After winning the PSUAC championship, that left one major goal for the team, winning the national championship at its home field in DuBois.

Penn State DuBois opened the USCAA championship tournament against D’Youville University. In a game that was originally scheduled for Monday afternoon, May 15, the game was moved to an evening start at Showers Field after field issues presented themselves at the other field in DuBois that was scheduled to host games in the tournament. The Nittany Lions didn’t let the change in time or venue take their focus away. Connor Cherry got the start on the mound for DuBois and after a bit of a rocky start to the game that saw him allow two runs to score, Cherry settled right in and didn’t allow another run until the seventh inning. Meanwhile, the Nittany Lion offense came out hard in the second inning and didn’t look back. Scoring four runs in the top of the second, DuBois scored in every inning for the rest of the game on the way to a 10-5 win in game one of the tournament. Colby Bodtorf and Kyle Elensky each had three hits for the Nittany Lions while Brett Beith led the way with four RBIs in the contest. Cherry pitched all seven innings for DuBois, allowing five runs, four of which were earned, on five hits, four walks and two strikeouts.

With the win over D’Youville in the first game, Penn State DuBois then advanced to face the top-seeded team in the tournament, Miami Hamilton. Because of the changes in the schedule on day one, this game was forced to be moved to an early morning start on Tuesday, May 16, instead of Monday night.

A slow starting game saw Miami Hamilton push across a single run against Nittany Lion starting pitcher Taylor Boland in the first two innings. The DuBois offense couldn’t capitalize on that, being held off the scoreboard entirely until the top of the third inning when Beith doubled to bring home Colby Bodtorf, followed by a double from Grant Lillard that scored Beith. With DuBois holding a 2-1 lead heading to the bottom of the third, Miami Hamilton answered back with two runs to take the lead back at 3-2. That is where the score would stay until the top of the fifth inning when with two outs Cory Lehman and Brandon Sicheri would hit back-to-back singles to put two runners on for the Nittany Lions. Elensky followed by drawing a walk and DuBois had the bases loaded for pinch hitter Tylor Herzing. On the third pitch of the at bat, Herzing was hit by a pitch, which advanced all the runners and brought Lehman home to score. With the game now tied and the bases still loaded, Logan Wagner was also called upon to pinch hit.

He delivered in a big way, knocking a single that allowed both Elensky and Sicheri to score and DuBois held a 5-3 lead heading to the bottom half of the fifth inning. Boland pitched a strong game for the Nittany Lions, but he was bitten by the home run bug a few times in this game. That included a solo home run in the bottom of the sixth inning that cut into the DuBois lead. However, Boland finished out the game strong striking out the final two batters of the game to help DuBois hold on to win the game by a final score of 5-4. Lillard ended the game with three hits for the Nittany Lions offensively while Boland went the distance on the mound, allowing four runs on six hits, with three of those hits being home runs, while striking out six batters.

The win over Miami Hamilton propelled DuBois into the next round of the tournament and set up an old fashion PSUAC rivalry game with Penn State Mont Alto. Great pitching performances for the Nittany Lions continued as Zach Tiracorda got the start and threw a gem of a game. In what turned out to be a low scoring affair, Tiracorda pitched a complete game, allowing just three hits and two walks while striking out eight Mont Alto batters. This gave DuBois enough room to make two runs stand up for the win, as a Lehman single in the top of the fourth inning allowed Lillard to score and a Bodtorf ground out in the top of the fifth let Tyler Yough reach home. In this game that only saw a combined six hits between the two teams, DuBois was able to bring home the 2-0 win to advance again in the tournament.

The win over Penn State Mont Alto then set up an important game against the University of Cincinnati-Clermont. The reason this game was so important is that the winner would automatically advance to the national championship series without having a loss in the double-elimination tournament, as the winner would be the lone team left that didn’t have a loss in tournament play.

The game started out rough for the Lions, not because of runs being scored by their opponent, but because of an injury to one of their players. Beith, an anchor for the DuBois team in centerfield all season, got injured when he attempted to leg out an infield single in the top of the first inning. Trying to reach base ahead of the throw, Beith dove headfirst towards first base and hurt his left hand, his throwing hand, in the process. While some teams might feel extra pressure too hard to overcome when an injury like that happens to one of their own, the Nittany Lions didn’t let that pressure get to them. Behind McClain Welshams, who started on the mound for DuBois, the Nittany Lion offense scored multiple runs in three of the seven innings in the game, scoring four in the third, two in the fifth and two in the seventh while also adding a single run in the sixth inning. Adding all these runs up, DuBois scored nine runs in the game while Welshams and Jeff Romano, who came in to relieve Welshams in the fourth inning, allowed only three runs combined on nine hits, giving DuBois a 9-3 win to advance them to the national championship series, which they could close out with a single win on Thursday evening, May 18.

Going into the championship series, one of the challenges that Penn State DuBois had was not knowing who they would be facing in the series. They had to wait for the results of several games before theirs to determine who they would be up against. After those games were completed, the Nittany Lions learned that they would be facing the University of Cincinnati-Clermont for a second time in the tournament. The difference was that this time the championship would be on the line.

The team had to learn how to play the game the correct way. We played the game the right way in this tournament.

—Tom Calliari , Penn State DuBois baseball head coach

In the championship game, Christian Hopp got things off to a strong start on the mound. He gave the team three scoreless innings to start the game, which DuBois took full advantage of by scoring two runs in each of those innings. Sicheri, Herzing, Bodtorf and Bryce Dobson each had run scoring singles within that three-inning span. Clermont wouldn’t go quietly, as they scored an unanswered run in the bottom of the fourth and two in the fifth to trim the lead to 6-3. That, however, would be the closest the score would get as the Nittany Lion offense sparked to life once again in the top half of the seventh and eighth innings, with DuBois scoring four and seven runs respectively in those half innings.

After Hopp was relieved after four innings of work, allowing four hits and two runs, Cherry, Ezeck Olinger, Cole Knable, Owen Graham and Mason Lieb combined to pitch the rest of the game for the Nittany Lions. The combined pitching performance from all six pitchers allowed Clermont’s offense only eight hits, three walks and three earned runs. That's not enough offense when you go up against a team that has six players who have multi-hit games and six players with multiple RBIs in that game as well. While the Nittany Lions did slug out 15 hits in the game, they only had a single extra base hit, a double by Wagner in the seventh inning that scored two for DuBois. In the end, when all the dust settled, Penn State DuBois celebrated a 17-3 win over Clermont and brought home the national championship for the fourth time since 2018.

When head coach Tom Calliari was asked to reflect upon this championship and how it compares to the others that he has won at Penn State DuBois, he noted how much this championship means to him and this team.

We do things the right way on the field and our guys conduct themselves in a very high-character manner. I’m very proud of how far the players have come both on the field and off the field.

—Tom Calliari , Penn State DuBois baseball head coach

“This one is the most gratifying for sure,” Calliari said. “These guys struggled for the first 15 games of the year. We were really banged up injury-wise and we’re very young. The team had to learn how to play the game the correct way. We played the game the right way in this tournament.”

Calliari attributed the national championship to his team’s willingness to play small ball. They executed bunts, pitchers didn’t give up many walks and they played tremendous defense throughout the tournament to secure the title.

“We do things the right way on the field and our guys conduct themselves in a very high character manner,” Calliari said. “I’m very proud of how far the players have come both on the field and off the field.”

Penn State DuBois won the USCAA small college world series championship in 2018, 2019, 2021 and now in 2023. There was no championship held in 2020 due to the pandemic, meaning the Nittany Lions have won the title in four of the last five tournaments that have been held.

The Nittany Lions were well represented on the all-tournament team as Lehman, Sicheri, Tiracorda and Wagner all receiving a spot on the honors team. Bodtorf was also honored as he was named this year’s tournament most valuable player.

Penn State DuBois finishes the year with an overall record of 30 wins and 13 losses. The team closed out the season on a nine-game winning streak and won 18 of their final 19 games this season.

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