BRADFORD, Pa. - The fifth-seeded Pitt-Bradford baseball team will resume play in the AMCC tournament Thursday when it meets top-seeded and 12th-ranked La Roche at 4 p.m in Pittsburgh.
The Redhawks earned the right to host the championship bracket after going a league-best 15-1 during the regular season. La Roche has won the AMCC tournament title three straight years and four out of the last five.
The Panthers advanced to the championship round after knocking off fourth-seeded Penn State Altoona in their opening-round best-of-three series, 2-1. It's their first appearance since 2012.
Junior outfielder Tim Brown broke out of his late-season slump against the Lions, hitting a blistering .643 with a team-leading seven RBIs in the series. Freshman Tyler Hoops swatted a pair of home runs to earn AMCC Player of the Weeks honors and was later named to the D3baseball.com Team of the Week.
The lineup welcomed back junior Jay Clinger, who missed the final three games of the regular season due to injury. Clinger went 6-11 with four RBIs against Penn State Altoona.
On the mound, Pitt-Bradford was led by senior Justin Beimel and sophomore Ryan Boyer. Beimel earned the victory in game one, scattering three runs over seven innings, to pick up his third win of the season. His performance landed him AMCC Pitcher of the Week honors. Boyer tossed eight scoreless innings in the game three victory, lowering his ERA to 2.88 on the season.
Pitt-Bradford will be tasked with stopping one of the most-balanced teams in the country. La Roche ranks in the top 30 nationally in NCAA Division III in team batting average (.350) and ERA (3.35).
At the plate, the Redhawks are led by the dynamic trio of David Lemley, Luis Navedo and Mitchell Yard. Lemely ranks second in the AMCC in RBIs with 46, one behind Mt. Aloysius' Stephen McCourt, and has eight homers. Navedo leads the league in runs scored (48) and is fourth in runs driven in (42). True to his namesake, Yard leads the team with nine home runs.
As a team, the Redhawks are averaging nearly nine runs a game and seven different players have driven in 30 or more runs.
Left-hander Nick Tunstall leads the AMCC with a 1.44 ERA in 43.2 innings pitched. In four conference starts, he did not surrender a run, a span of 25 innings. Right-hander Regis Sauer leads the team in innings pitched (48.0) and is undefeated with an 8-0 record and 3.38 ERA.
Since starting the season 3-5, La Roche is 28-3 in its last 31 games, including a 16-game winning streak that spanned nearly the entire month of April.
The Redhawks swept the regular season matchup with the Panthers, winning 6-5 and 7-0. Sauer went the distance in game one despite giving up four first-inning runs. He settled down after that, giving up just two hits the rest of the way. Tunstall fired five shutout innings in game two, and he combined with four relief pitchers to throw a two-hitter.
"La Roche is a good team," Pitt-Bradford head coach Zach Foster said. "They hit and pitch it and it shows by their record."
"We played them tough during the regular season and our guys are playing some inspired baseball, so I expect them to come ready to battle."
The tournament moves to a double-elimination format. The winner advances to face either Penn State Behrend or Mt. Aloysius Friday at noon, while the loser will play at 9 a.m. in an elimination contest.
Rain is expected in the forecast and could interfere with tournament play. There is a 70 percent chance of precipitation both Thursday and Friday. Last weekend, the AMCC cancelled the softball postseason tournament due to heavy rainfall, the first time in league history since the conference started receiving an automatic bid to the NCAA tourney.
Live stats and video links for Thursday's game can be found on http://athletics.pittbradford.org. Stay up-to-date with the latest alerts, scores and more by following Pitt-Bradford athletics on Twitter at @UPB_Panthers.