MARIETTA — Marietta College head coach Brian Brewer was surprised when he looked at the boxscore and saw his team committed just one error Friday at Pioneer Park.
“It feels like we had more than one error,” said Brewer, whose Pioneers dropped an 8-3 decision to Misericordia in Game 1 of the Super Regionals. “While some of them may not have been physical, we made a couple of mental errors on top of that. Just didn’t think we played real well. We had some critical mistakes, and I had more mistakes than anybody today.”
Now, Marietta’s back is against the wall. The Pioneers need to beat the Cougars twice Saturday to advance to the College World Series. One loss, and the season’s over.
“Tough loss, one we’ve got to bounce back from,” Brewer said. “We’ve just got put all our energy and efforts into playing better (Saturday) and see where the chips fall.”
Lefties David McCurry and Joe Valenti combined for a strong pitching performance for Misericordia, which tallied 14 base hits and played errorless ball in the field. The Cougars scored four-spots in the fourth and ninth innings to account for all their runs.
“David stepped up today and pitched really well,” said Misericordia skipper Pete Egbert.
“That’s probably as well as he’s pitched all year. He mixed pitches, he came in and out, he pitched backwards a little bit, he did some good things. Very happy with what he was able to do.”
McCurry threw the first six innings to earn his seventh win of the season. He worked around six hits and four walks to allow just two runs. He struck out two batters. Valenti fired the last three frames to earn the save. He gave up one run, one hit, one walk and fanned one batter.
“We always talk about winning the first one,” McCurry said. “I knew I had to be sharp today. Felt good with all three of my pitches in the ‘pen. That first inning I was locating all my pitches pretty well, so I knew from there on out I would be pretty dominant today.
“I have a lot of confidence in whoever comes in after me, specifically Joe V. He likes to shove, so I had a lot of confidence.”
Trent Valentine suffered his first loss of the season, allowing four runs — three earned — and nine hits over 5 2-3 innings of work. He had one walk and one strikeout.
Jared Bees and Jacob Rocky combined for two scoreless innings of relief before the Cougars scratched four more runs across against Gino Sabatine in the ninth. Forrest Havanis got the final out of the inning.
Valentine got into trouble in the top of the second as Misericordia loaded the bases with one out, but he got Jason Sanfilippo to ground into a 4-6-3 inning-ending double play.
The Pioneers took the first lead of the game in the third inning courtesy of Alex Richter’s RBI triple. McCurry then walked Brett Carson but struck out Ty Davis to avoid further damage.
Brady Madden and Joe Comins led the fourth inning off with back-to-back singles. Connor Maryniak grounded to third baseman Nick Bonnizzio, who tried to tag Madden out at third, but Madden got back safely. Bonnizzio fired to first to try and get an out, but it skipped into right field to allow two runs to score and give the Cougars the lead. Later, grounders by Brendan Gray and Jack Regenye plated two more runs to make it 4-1.
Marietta threatened in the fifth inning thanks to a leadoff single by Kail Hill and a walk by Bonnizzio, but McCurry got Richter and Carson to both ground out to second.
Davis led off the sixth with a single. Cole Rieman followed with a base hit of his own, but Davis was thrown out trying to go first to third. The Pioneers were still able to cash in as Matthew Green came through with a two-out, pinch-hit single to bring in Rieman and make it 4-2.
Ben Kaplin produced a leadoff walk in the seventh inning, but Valenti came on in relief and retired the first three batters he faced.
Misericordia loaded the bases with two outs in the eighth, but Sabatine induced a groundout to second by three-hole hitter Derrick Vosburg to keep the Etta Express within striking distance.
The Pioneers got within a run in the bottom of the eighth thanks to Green’s sacrifice fly. With the tying run at third, Valenti struck out Gabe Torres to end the inning.
Misericordia put the game out of reach in the ninth thanks to a pair of two-run singles by Sanfilippo and Brock Bollinger to make it 8-3, and the celebration was on in the Cougar dugout.
“Emotions ran real high there,” Bollinger said. “We feed off each other. Jason gets a big hit, so I’ve got to step up and get another two-out hit, and that’s what I did.”
Valenti worked a perfect ninth to bring the Cougars within one win of the Super Regional title.
“(Their pitching) was good,” Brewer said. “(McCurry) plopped the curveball in there. He got out in front. That’s some of the mistakes I made. Probably should have been a little more aggressive early in the counts, especially when we were up 1-0. (Valenti) on the backend was just as impressive.”
Madden and Bollinger had three hits apiece for Misericordia while Comins, Maryniak, Gray and Sanfilippo had two knocks each.
Davis and Rieman had two hits apiece for the Pioneers.
Game 2 is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday. If Marietta wins, Game 3 is slated for 2:30 p.m.
“Told them to enjoy (the win) for five minutes and then stay humble and stay focused,” Egbert said. “We’re not there yet. We know this is a good ballclub. They’re very resilient, they’re extremely athletic, they’re talented, they have plenty of pitching left, we’re in their territory, so by no means is this over. It feels good to win the first one, but our guys are going to come out and compete (Saturday).”
Jordan Holland can be reached at email@example.com.