The Frostburg State baseball team finished its 40th season in program history with a strong performance, winning its third Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference Tournament championship and first since 1998 en route to a 26-18 final record.
Coming off a 31-12-1 record in 2003, the Bobcats entered the season with high expectations as they sought to compete against the nation’s best.
FSU began the season attempting to defend its 2003 Chowan Tournament championship, but dropped its first three games before regrouping to defeat Western Connecticut in the consolation game.
The win seemed to put the Bobcats back on track as they won five in a row and nine of their next 11 to improve to 10-5 heading into their Spring Break trip to Tampa, Florida.
In Tampa, FSU began the week with a wild 13-12 loss to Allegheny in 10 innings before splitting doubleheaders against perennial nation powers Southern Maine and Millikin.
After falling to North Central to end its trip, FSU returned home and swept defending AMCC champion Penn State Behrend in impressive fashion, slipping past the Lions 2-1 in eight innings and before posting a 6-0 shutout in the second game.
However, the momentum from those two victories did not carry into the following weeks as the Bobcats dropped three of their next four conference games to fall to 15-12 overall and 3-3 in the AMCC.
To make matters worse, junior slugger Scott Feller (American Heritage/Boca Raton, Fla.), the eventual AMCC Player of the Year, suffered a leg injury in FSU’s 5-3 loss to Penn State Altoona and missed the next 10 games (the Bobcats went 5-5 in his absence).
In danger of missing the AMCC Tournament, FSU regrouped to win their final three conference games to salvage a 6-6 league mark and earn the fourth and final berth in the AMCC Tournament. The Bobcats wound up tied with Penn State Behrend in the league standings but won the tiebreaker by virtue of their sweep of the Lions earlier in the year.
"We had some key injuries, and we were 1-5 in the conference without Scott," explained Bobcat head coach Chris McKnight. "We got a boost when Scott returned and won seven of our last 10 heading into the AMCC Tournament."
The Bobcats put it all together at the right time, toppling No. 1 seed Pitt-Bradford 12-7 in the opening game of the AMCC Tournament and then dumping No. 2 seed Penn State Altoona 7-3 in the winner’s bracket championship game.
In the finals, FSU faced rival Pitt-Bradford again, with the Panthers needing to defeat the Bobcats twice in order to claim the tournament title. Pitt-Bradford won a close 3-1 pitchers duel to force a second championship contest, and this time, FSU used their potent offense to claim a crazy 13-10 10-inning battle for their first conference title under McKnight.
After falling behind 2-0 after the first inning, FSU plated two runs in second, third and fourth innings before UPB countered with five in the bottom of the fourth to take a 7-6 edge.
A three-run homerun by freshman Chris Jones (Towson/Baltimore, Md.) highlighted a four-run fifth that gave the Bobcats a 10-7 advantage, but the Panthers tacked on a run in the fifth and then tied the game at 10 with two runs in the bottom of the ninth.
FSU would not be denied, scoring three times in the top of the 10th on an error and a two-run triple by senior Kevin Romanik (Millville/Millville, N.J.).
Sophomore Collin Bednar (Glen Burnie/Millersville, Md.) set down the Panthers in the bottom of the inning as the Bobcats claimed their first AMCC crown since 1998.
"That was one of the best comebacks I have been associated with as a player and coach," said McKnight. "The guys hung tough, came up with some key hits and really deserved to win it."
Having won nine of its last 12 and capturing the conference title, the Bobcats felt confident in receiving a bid to either the ECAC or NCAA Tournaments.
FSU did not get the call from the ECAC, but it did make one last effort to impress the national committee, adding games against Juniata and Arcadia, who both won their conference tournaments and automatic berths in the NCAA Tournament.
FSU proved itself against Juniata with a 7-3 victory before dropping a hard-fought 7-6 loss to Arcadia. The Bobcats held leads of 5-2 and 6-5 but the Knights rallied with two runs in the bottom of the ninth to end FSU’s hopes of a post-season invitation.
The Bobcats finished with a 26-18 overall record and a No. 7 final ranking in the Mid-Atlantic Region by the American Baseball Coaches Association.
"Of course we were disappointed about not receiving an NCAA bid, but we proved that we can play with anyone and felt we belonged in the regionals," said McKnight.
Individually, several Bobcats enjoyed impressive seasons.
Senior Sean Davis (Sherwood/Olney, Md.), the AMCC Pre-Season Player of the Year, wrapped up a stellar career with another outstanding year, hitting .307 with a team-high 38 runs, 17 stolen bases and 24 walks and earning second-team All-AMCC honors.
Davis, a four-time All-AMCC selection, finished his career as FSU’s all-time leader in hits (182), runs (141), games played (158) and at-bats (522).
He also ranks second in hit-by-pitches (19), third in both doubles (35) and walks (82), fourth in total bases (248), fifth in extra base hits (48), sixth in both sacrifice bunts (20) and stolen bases (56), seventh in RBI (98) and 10th in triples (8).
"Sean had an outstanding career here at FSU," said McKnight. "It was a pleasure coaching him and watching him give 100 percent every day."
Feller also posted impressive numbers en route to earning AMCC Player of the Year honors. He led the team in batting average (.427), hits (53), home runs (6), RBI (40) and total bases (84), and he had an amazing strikeout to plate appearance ratio of 1:26.8, the 11th best single-season ratio in school history.
In his three seasons at FSU, Feller ranks near the top of numerous career record charts. He ranks second with a .419 career batting average and 40 doubles, third with 58 extra base hits, fifth with 144 hits, 235 total bases and a .683 slugging percentage, sixth with 107 RBI and seventh with 15 homeruns.
Another strong season came from senior Justin Wilt (Brunswick/Brunswick, Md.), who joined Feller on the All-AMCC first team. Wilt hit .338 with a team-high 13 doubles and also ranked among the team leaders with 49 hits, 35 RBI and 27 runs.
Senior Ryan Hamerski (Sherwood/Olney, Md.), an All-AMCC second team selection, finished the season with a .316 batting average, 11 doubles, 28 runs scored and 25 RBI.
Sophomore Kyle Mahan (Potomac/Woodbridge, Va.) also earned second-team All-AMCC honors after hitting a career-best .325, stealing a team-high 17 bases, scoring 28 runs and driving in 22 more.
Romanik and junior Chris Baugher (Brunswick/Fredrick, Md.) earned All-AMCC honorable mention honors for their performances.
Romanik set career-high’s in 15 offensive categories as he hit .377 with 23 runs scored and 17 RBI despite only earning 61 at-bats this season, while Baugher hit .306 with 30 hits, four home runs, five doubles, 24 RBI and 15 walks.
On the mound, the Bobcats received great efforts from many of their starters as well as their bullpen.
Seniors Brent Lutz (Central/Toms Brook, Va.) and Dan Sidorowicz (St. Mary's Ryken/Leonardtown, Md.) provided veteran experience and leadership, while the young arms of Bednar, fellow sophomore Mike Tiller (Potomac/Dumfries, Va.) and freshman Frank Sutton (Robert C. Byrd/Clarksburg, W.Va.) gave a glimpse of a bright future.
Lutz (6-2, 4.11 ERA) led the Bobcats in wins, including an impressive complete-game effort against national powerhouse Southern Maine in which he allowed just one earned run and struck out eight in an 8-1 victory. He earned both AMCC and ECAC Pitcher of the Week honors for his performance.
Lutz also held Penn State Behrend scoreless over 5 2/3 innings of FSU’s 6-0 shutout and earned the victory against Penn State Altoona in the AMCC Tournament.
"Brent was the ultimate competitor, always giving everything he had each time he took the hill," said McKnight.
Sidorowicz went 2-2 with a 7.13 ERA, the highest of his career. However, he came up with some huge pitching performances when the team needed him most. Most notable was his performance against Millikin on the Spring Break trip when he went five innings and allowed only five hits and one earned run in a 6-2 victory.
Sidorowicz concluded his career ranked second in school history with 47 appearances, eighth with 23 starts and 24 relief appearances and tenth with three saves, 107 strikeouts and 152 1/3 innings pitched.
The biggest surprises for the Bobcats came from the bullpen as Bednar and Sutton solidified a young and talented relief staff. Bednar, who set a FSU single-season record with 19 relief appearances and tied the single-season record of 19 total appearances, was dominate out of the bullpen.
He struck out a team-high 46 batters in only 28 2/3 innings and also held opponents to a team-low .237 batting average while tying for the club lead with two saves.
Sutton, who appeared in nine games and started twice, posted a sparkling 1.61 earned run average, allowing just four earned runs in 22 1/3 innings of work.
As a staff the Bobcats held a 4.77 ERA, struck out 270 batters and limited opponents to a .280 batting average.
While falling short of their ultimate goal of the NCAA Tournament, the Bobcats caught fire at the right time to claim the AMCC title. FSU will look to carry that momentum into the 2005 season as the AMCC Tournament winner receives an automatic bid to the NCAA playoffs for the first time ever.
"It was a great year for our program and our eight seniors," said McKnight. "I’m proud of the way the team battled all season, and we expect to be in the hunt for the AMCC title and a spot in the NCAA regional next year."
For further information on this release, contact:
Office of Sports Information
Frostburg State University
101 Braddock Road
Frostburg, MD 21532-2303