DuBOIS — The Penn State DuBois baseball team will look to defend its USCAA Small College World Series title as it begins play in this year’s event Monday night at Showers Field.
DuBois (28-12), who earned the No. 3 seed in the tournament, will take on No. 6 seed Southern Maine Community College (29-7), who is returning after to the Series after an eight-year hiatus, in its first game.
That contest is the fifth game scheduled for the opening day of the tournament Monday and is set for a 6:30 p.m. start.
The matchup between the Lions and the Seawolves will pit two of the better hitting teams in the USCAA up against one another.
DuBois leads the USCAA with a .345 batting average this season, while Southern Maine is second at .340 on the year.
The Seawolves led the country in on-base percentage at .446, while the Lions were second and also third in the country with 26 home runs on the year.
Penn State DuBois head coach Tom Calliari said he believes this year’s field is even tougher than last season when his team won the title, but feels his team is used to playing with a target on their backs.
As defending PSUAC and World Series champs, the Lions got the best of every opponent from the start of the year to the finish.
“It’s different now when you have the bulls eye on your back and it took guys a good month to realize we are getting everybody’s best,” Calliari said.
“People do research, they know who they’re playing and we were getting everbody’s number one.”
Calliari added that going up against everyone’s best early in the season got them prepared for conference play and the rest of their season as they were able to defend their PSUAC title.
The head coach noted that the program has developed a standard for winning over its four-year history, as he continuously stresses to his players to take everything one practice and one game at a time and to never get too far ahead of themselves.
That standard has led DuBois to a fourth consecutive World Series appearance, as it is one of just four schools to have made the Series each of the last four years.
The other three being Wright State Lake, who also made it for the first time in 2016, UC Clermont who is in for the seventh year in a row, and perennial power Apprentice School, who has made the tournament in each of its 20 years of existence.
If DuBois wins its opening game, it will play Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. against either UC Clermont, the No. 2 seed, or the winner of No. 7 Bryant & Stratton Albany and No. 10 Bluefield State.
Bryant & Stratton Albany is one squad in this year’s Series that DuBois is familiar with, as they faced each other twice late in the regular season.
The Bobcats were able to sweep a doubleheader from the Lions on April 25 at Showers Field, winning 4-1 and 9-7.
The only other team in this year’s field that DuBois has faced this season is PSUAC foe Penn State Mont Alto, who is returning to the Series for the first time since 2017, as they met for a three game series April 13-15.
DuBois won the first game at home 12-2, before losing the second 13-3 at home and dropping the finale of the series 5-4 on the road.
DuBois has an overall record of 7-5 in its three World Series appearances, as it went 4-1 last season on the way to claiming the title.
Of the four teams the Lions faced in last year’s World Series, three return for this year’s tournament including Wright State Lake, Selma and Apprentice School.
DuBois defeated Wright State Lake in its opener, as they return as the No. 4 seed this season, then secured a win over this year’s No. 9 seed Selma, before topping Cleary, who is not back this season, in its third game.
The Lions lone loss came in the first championship game to Apprentice School, who is back as the top seed in this year’s Series, before DuBois was able to win the ‘if-necessary’ game to claim the title.
Bluefield State (No. 10) and Mississippi University for Women (No. 5) also return for the second year in a row.
Entering this season’s conference tournament, most predictions had DuBois earning a spot in the World Series no matter what happened in the PSUAC tourney.
Calliari noted that he urged to his players to ignore the outside noise and did his best to keep them grounded and focused on the task at hand.
“The term its lonely at the top is a term for a reason, it’s because everybody is trying to look for any reason to knock you down,” Calliari said.
“Complacency leads to conformability and that’s when mistakes happen, so I really ratcheted up the pressure last week and made sure they stayed focused.”
The head coach continuously stresses to his team that they can’t control what anyone else does, but can only control how they practice, prepare and play.
Calliari added that he and his coaching staff make sure that they keep practices intense and tougher then the games, as he tells his guys to let it loose and have fun when game time comes.
Calliari said it is exciting to have the Series return to town for a second year in a row and noted that it benefits the entire community, from restaurants to hotels, as well as helping with recruiting.
The head coach credited his team’s success over the last four seasons to the hard work of his players and the leadership of his 10 seniors.
The Lions have 10 seniors this season, as Colton Treaster, Garrett Brown, Clayton Butler, Thomas Plummer, Brandon Gettig, Austin Amacher, Bryce Hanley and Jesse Martin have been with the team for four years, while Shane Haberberger and John White transferred in as sophomores.
“I’m very proud of those guys, they’ve meant a lot to the program and they are the foundation of our program and they’ve built it on concrete not sand,” Calliari said.
“Our seniors have been great mentors, its exciting for the young guys and now they are learning how to keep the standard and mentor the next group coming in.”
While the head coach is glad to have seen his 10 seniors have plenty of success on the diamond, he noted the most important thing for him is to see them all leaving with their degrees.
“That is the upmost important thing, I’ve always told our guys it goes family, degree, baseball in that order,” Calliari said.
He also credited his program’s success over the last few years to the players unselfishness, as they are not worried about losing their spot and they care most about the success of the team.
Calliari said his players have done well all season and throughout their careers responding to adversity and everybody is excited to begin their title defense.
“Its gonna be fun, they’re gonna embrace defending their title, we know we’re getting everbody’s best and we’re ready,” Calliari said.
“Its not easy, you’ve gotta have a little luck involved too, you create your own luck, but everything has to fall into the right place and it just takes a special year to do it.”
“I think we’ve got just as good a chance as anybody coming in so I feel good about our chances.”