LA PLUME — Despite falling just short of ending its season on the highest note possible, the Keystone College baseball team had a lot to celebrate upon returning home from the NCAA Division III World Series in Appleton, Wisconsin.
Members of the team and coaching staff were greeted by a throng of supporters at the Gambal Athletic Center on campus Wednesday, June 1, one day after the Giants finished as the Division III baseball runner-up, capping the program’s most successful season in school history.
Keystone College won its first three games of the World Series by a combined score of 27-8 before dropping two consecutive games to Trinity University of Texas in the National Championship Series.
The Giants finished with a 40-11 overall record and ended the season ranked third in the American Baseball Coaches Association and D3baseball.com/National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association national polls, their highest final rankings in program history.
Keystone College claimed its eighth consecutive Colonial States Athletic Conference championship and won the NCAA New England Regional championship by sweeping all four of its games.
“They fought and grinded out at-bats, that’s what got them to the World Series,” Keystone College head coach Jamie Shevchik said. “We didn’t play our best baseball until the last two weeks of the season, but once we got on a roll they got a lot of confidence and steamrolled right through the conference tournament and regionals. I’m extremely happy for these kids.”
Keystone College sophomore Robbie Nardelli, a Valley View High School graduate, believes all of the team’s sacrifices culminated in the trip to the World Series.
“We put in a lot of hard work, especially back in the winter,” Nardelli said. “All the guys would wake up for 5 a.m. runs and 5 a.m. lifting throughout the whole course of the season.”
Although Nardelli didn’t envision himself as a Giant, he has embraced the situation and contributed to the success of the team.
“I grew up watching this team play ever since I was young and this is the last place I ever thought I’d wind up,” Nardelli said. “I made the decision to come here along with another hometown guy, Billy Nelson (of North Pocono), and we achieved our goal of making the World Series. The final result wasn’t how we wanted it to turn out, but we’re hungry for next year.”
While Keystone College Director of Athletics Matthew Grimaldi was thrilled with the team’s performance on the field, he was even more impressed with their manners and sportsmanship.
“What you did was historic, we know that,” Grimaldi told the players. “You’re second to none on the baseball field, and you know that. I’m so proud of each and every one of you.
“The thing I took away whether it was the NCAA people, the hotel personnel, or everybody at the ballpark, they all said over and over that you are first class and great men.”
Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.