TRENTON, N.J. - The Manhattan College baseball team is going to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in 54 years after winning its second Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference title on Saturday at Waterfront Park in Trenton, N.J. After two dramatic walk-off finishes to advance to the MAAC Championship Round of the double elimination tournament, the Jaspers rolled to a 5-1 victory over Siena (28-30) behind a dominant 13 strikeout pitching performance from Tournament MVP Mike Giordano in the title bout.
Manhattan (34-17) will make its third trip in program history to the NCAA Tournament. The Jaspers opponent will be revealed during the 64-team Selection Show on Monday at 12:30 p.m. ET which will air live on ESPN. Manhattan's last trip to the NCAA Tournament was in 2006 when the Jaspers advanced to the Regional Finals in Lincoln, Neb. after defeating #6 Nebraska and Cornhuskers' starter Joba Chamberlain, along with San Francisco.
The championship triumph was also a landmark victory for Jaspers' head coach Kevin Leighton who reached the 200-career win plateau in six years at Manhattan. Leighton is only the third coach in Manhattan College Athletics history to achieve this milestone.
Manhattan earned its championship victory much easier than in its first two wins of the tournament. This time the Jaspers did not need a heart-throbbing bottom of the ninth inning moment to seal the deal.
It seemed simple, freshman Yoandry Galan propelled Manhattan out to a lead it would not relinquish by getting the Jaspers' on the scoreboard first with a two-out, two-RBI single in the second inning. The Jaspers tacked on three more runs in the third inning courtesy of an RBI single from senior Austin Sheffield , a sacrifice fly from Ramon Ortega and a RBI double from Kyle Murphy to push Manhattan ahead 5-0.
It proved to be more than enough run support for Giordano who complemented a brilliant season with the game of his career. Giordano was nearly untouchable by the Saints' batters as he set a career-high in strikeouts (13), did not allow an earned run, yielded only three hits and one walk in his third complete game of the year. It was only fitting that Giordano struck out the final batter in a memorable MAAC Tournament performance and his 20th career win.
The Jaspers worked Siena starter C.J. Sohl for all five earned runs. Murphy led Manhattan with a 2-for-3 performance at the plate, while Sheffield and sophomore shortstop Nick Camastro contributed two hits apiece.
Giordano was joined on the MAAC All-Tournament Team by seniors Mark Onorati and Sheffield, along with Ortega and sophomore pitcher John Soldinger. Onorati had two doubles in the tournament, including the game-breaking double to lead off the Jaspers bottom of the ninth inning comeback over Siena on Friday, which sent Manhattan into the championship game. Sheffield hit .385 and had three RBI in three tournament games. Ortega was another clutch performer with three RBI and two doubles in the postseason. Soldinger, the 2011 MAAC Pitcher of the Year, guided Manhattan to the critical game one victory over Canisius by delivering a complete game effort and striking out six batters in the 3-2 triumph.