One big inning was all that stood between the Muhlenberg baseball team and the Centennial Conference playoffs.
Needing two wins against Washington on the final day of league action to get in, the Mules went to extra innings in Game 1 before the Shoremen scored four in the ninth to clinch their own berth in the playoffs.
Muhlenberg recovered for a walkoff win in Game 2 and a thrilling record-setter in the season finale, finishing 17-19 overall and 9-9 in the CC. Offense keyed the team: it scored 277 runs, the third most in program history, had 415 hits, also third, and recorded the fourth-highest team batting average (.330) and slugging percentage (.448) all-time at Muhlenberg.
Fisher ended his career as Muhlenberg’s all-time leader in runs scored (139) and doubles (40) and in the top five in batting average (.368), hits (172) and total bases (234).
After 4-4 spring break trip to Florida, the Mules struggled, dropping two of seven – the last two by just one run each. But Muhlenberg recovered from its CC-opening loss at Swarthmore by putting together a four-game winning streak, beginning with a doubleheader sweep at Gettysburg.
Muhlenberg then avenged its one-run loss to Swarthmore with a 17-3 blowout and knocked off another eventual playoff team, Haverford, 3-2. But a 2-5 CC swoon ensued, dropping the Mules back to .500 in the league.
Muhlenberg recovered by taking care of business against Dickinson – including a 26-3 thrashing at home – before being swept by eventual CC champion and soon-to-be top-ranked Johns Hopkins. That set the stage for the Mules’ doubleheader against Washington, which came oh-so-close to going in their favor.
After that disappointment, Muhlenberg closed the season with two exciting contests against local teams. The Mules held Division I Lehigh to just one big inning and rallied in the ninth, putting the tying run at the plate with two outs before falling, 7-4.
Pomroy is one of just two Mules with 100 career runs scored and RBI. He ended his career with 108 runs and exactly 100 RBI.
In the annual under-the-lights contest against DeSales, Muhlenberg sent senior Phil Cresta to the hill in search of career victory No. 22, which would break a tie for the school’s all-time record. Cresta shined, tossing a complete-game six-hitter, and the Mule offense came through for its ace, scoring four runs in the eighth to turn a two-run deficit into a two-run lead in an eventual 6-4 season-ending and record-breaking victory.
Cresta and the Mules’ other two seniors, double-play tandem Dan Fisher and Eric Pomroy, formed one of the most accomplished classes in program history and finished their careers with fantastic seasons.
Fisher led the team with a .439 batting average, the fourth-highest single-season mark in school history. He ripped 58 hits, breaking the school record entering the season, scored 48 runs, second-most all-time at Muhlenberg, and broke his own single-season mark for doubles (16) en route to receiving All-CC honorable mention.
Cresta leaves Muhlenberg as its all-time leader in wins and innings pitched and in the top five in strikeouts, winning percentage and appearances. He also holds the longest consecutive shutout innings streak (24.2).
Pomroy hit .340 with 25 RBI and 29 runs scored. Cresta went 6-3 with a 5.15 ERA in 71.2 innings pitched, by far the most on the team.
Junior Joseph DiCecilia was the Mules’ star on offense, hitting .436 (including a school-record 61 hits) with nine home runs, 43 RBI, 36 runs scored and nine stolen bases en route to being named first-team All-CC. He put together a 16-game hitting streak, second longest in school history, and had the program’s first recorded cycle in 54 years.
Freshman John Muha started in right and hit .378, and sophomore Jesse Nusbaum hit .353 in center. Freshman Joseph Vila (.321 average) spent most of the season in left before suffering an injury, and junior Eli Branzburg (.304), formerly a catcher, moved over to the position late in the season.
Junior Clint Lynch hit .321 with three home runs and had a fantastic season behind the plate, picking off nine runners, the most by a CC catcher since the league began keeping the stat in 2003, and catching another nine stealing, second in the conference.
Junior Jeff Puklin (.270) started 31 games at a variety of positions, including left field and third base. Sophomore Brian Beck (.303) and junior Bobby Spindler (13 RBI) saw significant time at first and third, respectively. Freshman Jimmy Aramanda (.286) was the Mules’ top pinch hitter and came through with several big plays, including the walkoff walk against Washington and the tying hit against DeSales.
Sophomore Mike Speroni was 3-0 with a 3.73 ERA as a reliever and occasional starter. Junior Jason Daniels won four games on the mound and classmate Chris Harper won two.