CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Senior left-handed pitcher Dan Weigel pitched a complete-game four-hitter and did not allow a run over the final eight innings in leading the Bucknell baseball team to a 5-2 NCAA Regional victory over Liberty Saturday afternoon at Davenport Field. It was the second NCAA postseason victory for the Bison, who equaled the program record for wins in a season as they improved to 31-20-1 on the season.
Bucknell, the fourth seed at the Regional, bounced back from a 10-1 loss to No. 3 national seed Virginia on Friday. Third-seeded Liberty (41-18) was eliminated from the double-elimination regional after opening with a 3-2 loss to second-seeded Arkansas Friday night.
Saturday’s win was the first for the Bison at an NCAA Regional since it defeated the No. 4 overall national seed Florida State in the opening game of the 2008 postseason. Then-senior left-hander Mathew Wilson pitched a six-hit shutout in that contest to propel Bucknell to the victory.
While Weigel (8-5) didn’t match Wilson’s shutout on Sautrday, he was the story of the game. The tall lefty allowed two runs on two hits in the first inning and just two hits the rest of the way. He did not walk a hitter and struck out six while also overcoming three Bison errors behind him.
“I told the team to have confidence and to believe in themselves and Dan certainly did that today,” praised Bison head coach Scott Heather. “He battled through some adversity early, but was tough after that. He kept them off balance and utilized the big ballpark.”
Weigel seemed to get stronger as the game went on. He retired nine of the final 10 hitters he faced and did not allow more than one baserunner in an inning over the final six frames. By logging his fourth complete game of the season, Weigel now holds Bucknell’s single-season (97.2) and career (273.1) innings pitched records.
Liberty went up 2-0 in the top of the first inning, opening the scoring when leadoff hitter Ashton Perritt avoided a Jon Mayer tag on a close play at home plate to score on a sac fly. Alex Close followed with a solo home run to left, the Flames’ 37th home run of the season.
Bucknell answered quickly with five runs over the next two innings in an action-packed early portion of the game. Sam Clark drew a bases-loaded walk to put the Bison on the board and Rob Krentzman followed with his team-best seventh bases-loaded hit of the season to give Bucknell a 3-2 lead. Unfortunately, Krentzman exited the game with an apparent leg injury immediately following the go-ahead hit.
Krentzman’s hit also knocked Liberty starter Parker Bean (7-3) from the game after recording just one out.
Bucknell added two more runs on a hard-hit two-out Mayer double to left in the bottom of the second. Both runs were unearned as Brett Smith had started the rally by reaching on one of Liberty’s three errors in the contest.
Three of the Bison’s five runs were unearned as they capitalized on a number of miscues.
Mayer finished the contest 2-for-3 with two RBIs and a run scored. Danny Rafferty also had a pair of hits, while Krentzman and Anthony Gingerelli contributed one apiece. Gingerelli has now reached base in a team-best 13 straight games.
Bucknell had just one runner reach third base after the second inning as the Liberty bullpen was solid behind Bean. Shawn Clowers pitched 3.2 innings and allowed four hits and two unearned runs, while Matt Marsh struck out seven and yielded just one hit over the final four innings.
The 31 wins for the Bison this year equal the 1998 and 2001 Bucknell squads for the best win marks in program history.
“Winning an NCAA game is a big deal for our program and the Patriot League,” noted Heather, the Patriot League Coach of the Year. “Our league is very competitive from top to bottom and going through league play prepared us well for this kind of game.”
Interestingly, Heather earned his first career win as Bucknell head coach last March at Davenport Field against Harvard and now he has his first NCAA victory also at Davenport Field.
The Bison will play in another elimination game Sunday at 1 p.m. against the loser of Saturday night’s Virginia-Arkansas game. Bucknell is expected to pitch sophomore right-hander Andrew Andreychik.