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Friday, April 29, 2011

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baseball ends season with records, fun

baseball seniors
Musical positions: Daniels at bat, Puklin catching, Lynch pitching, Spindler catching, Daniels at short, Puklin pitching, Lynch at first, Harper at bat (left to right).
A season of disappointment and heartbreak ended with nothing but smiles, laughter and fun for the Muhlenberg baseball team.

The Mules, who fell a few plays short of their goal of reaching the Centennial Conference playoffs, closed out their campaign with a 29-0 win against Baptist Bible – a game that will be remembered not as much for its high score and records (see box at left) as for the enjoyment the seven seniors got out of it.

“It was just the perfect ending,” said Jeff Puklin. “Everyone got a chance to play where they wanted to, get one last win on our
Record Check

The Mules’ 29-0 win made a big impact on the record book:
• The 29 runs tied the school record set in 1954 vs. St. Joseph’s and tied in 1997 vs. Swarthmore.

• The shutout win was the biggest in team history, surpassing a 24-0 blanking of Allentown in 1986.

• The 13-run seventh set a school record for run in an inning. Three times previously (most recently in 1982), the Mules had scored 12 in an inning.

• The Mules had two 10-run innings in a game for the first time ever.

• Muhlenberg’s 27 hits tied a school record set in 2005 vs. Dickinson and tied in 2008 vs. Penn State Berks.

• The Mules tied a school record (set last year vs. Dickinson) with 11 hits in the third inning.

• With eight doubles, the Mules broke the record of seven in a game, achieved twice previously.

• A 76-year-old school record was broken when Clint Lynch doubled in the seventh for the Mules’ 12th extra-base hit. The old mark of 11 was set in 1934 vs. Lehigh.

Bobby Spindler went 6-for-8 to tie the school record of six hits in a game, achieved three previous times. It also gave him the team batting title with a .358 average, six points ahead of John Muha.

Joseph DiCecilia, who hit a three-run homer in his final career at-bat, went 4-for-5 with six RBI to become only the third player in team history with two 50-hit seasons. He had a school-record 61 last year and 51 in 2011.

• Sophomore Joseph Vila belted a three-run homer, his fifth of the year, in the third. He is only the second Muhlenberg player to have at least five doubles, triples and home runs in a season.

home field, and play for the love of the game and the pride of Muhlenberg baseball.”

“There was no pressure,” added Clint Lynch. “We just wanted to enjoy our last game and have fun. And obviously we did.”

The most fun came from the non-traditional lineups the Mules (11-26-1) utilized. The game began
Clint Lynch
Lynch combined with Spindler to give the Mules a player with six hits and a player with five hits in the same game for the first time.
with four seniors – Puklin, Bobby Spindler, Joseph DiCecilia and Lynch – stacked at the top of the batting order instead of in their normal spots. DiCecilia, who had started every game at first or second, was in left field.

“Coach said if we took care of business early on and got a big lead, some fun things would happen,” said Puklin.

Did they ever. After Muhlenberg scored 10 runs in the third against the undermanned Defenders (5-17), the seniors began to move around. Puklin, who started at second base, moved to first base in the fourth and behind the plate in the fifth. Lynch, the starting catcher, switched to first base for the first time in his career and made a nice pick of a throw in the dirt on his first chance.

Starting pitcher Jason Daniels threw five shutout innings, allowing only one hit, then moved to shortstop. Chris Harper went into right field after pitching a scoreless sixth. Puklin came in to pitch the seventh, and Lynch took the mound for the eighth, throwing to Spindler, who donned catcher’s garb for the first time in his career.

The seventh senior, Adam Scarzafava, played two innings in center before getting the final three outs in a rotation that approximated his career path at Muhlenberg: He was an outfielder before converting to pitcher midway through his junior season.

The seven seniors played together for the final three innings, with Puklin finishing up in left. He played seven different positions in the game and wound up playing all nine in his career.

“I knew coming in that I had played everywhere except first base, pitcher and catcher,” said the utility player extraordinaire, who had two hits in the third inning and scored five runs (one short of the school record) in the game. “I didn’t really think I’d get a chance to do it. It’s great – not many people can say they played every position in college.”

The Mule seniors not only played different roles, but they excelled in them. Puklin allowed only one of the five batters he faced to hit the ball fair out of the infield, and Lynch struck out the first batter he faced on three pitches.

Daniels, who earned his 12th career win, missed a home run by inches in his second at-bat, belting a drive off the top of the fence for a two-run double as part of the 13-run seventh. Harper walked twice and scored two runs in his first collegiate taste of hitting and also caught two balls in right, one for the final out of the game.

“It’s great to end on a high note,” said Lynch, who said he was more proud of his consistency at the plate (5-for-6 with two doubles and three RBI) than his successes at pitcher and first base. “And I think it’s good for the younger guys too. Hopefully they can take some of this into next year. They have a lot of potential.”
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