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Penn State DuBois Claims 2023 USCAA National Championship

DuBOIS, Pa. — Adversity.

That is something that the baseball team at Penn State DuBois knows all about.

(Pictured above, members of the Penn State DuBois baseball team celebrate their USCAA national championship/photo courtesy of Penn State DuBois)

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 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 May 16 instead of Monday night.

DuBois won that game 5-4 thanks to a two-run, pinch-hit single by Logan Wagner.

Wins over Penn State Alto and the University of Cincinnati-Clermont put DuBois in the championship series.

The Nittany Lions had to wait for an opponent. It turned out to be the University of Cincinnati-Clermont again, this time with a championship at stake.

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.

“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