With North Allegheny grad at helm, Penn State goes on run to club baseball World Series
Sunday, June 26, 2022 | 11:01 AM
The top-seeded Penn State D1 club baseball team went into the bottom of the ninth down 3-1 against Florida State in the semifinals of the National Club Baseball Association World Series in Greenwood, S.C.
With a win, the Nittany Lions would get to play Florida State again for a berth in the championship game. A loss would end the season.
Coach Cam Medic called in the players in between innings and gave the team a pep talk. Pitcher Matt Schietroma said it helped them regain their confidence.
“He told us, ‘There’s no team that can beat us for nine straight innings,’ and he just kept preaching on that,” Schietroma said. “He was like, ‘We know we’re not getting our bounces, but something will go our way. We have nine full innings to get something to go our way,’ and we just stuck with it.”
In the bottom of the ninth, the team rallied. Joe Picozzi tied the score with a double off the wall in left-center, and Ryan Hodinko drove in Picozzi to give Penn State the 4-3 win.
It was just one memorable moment in an unforgettable season.
After almost two seasons without club baseball, the NCBA returned for the 2022 season, and North Allegheny alum Medic took the coaching job at Penn State.
“I came across an application. The previous coach graduated, so I stumbled across it, with not many expectations,” Medic said. “I filled out an application and resume and then got a callback for an interview, came in for the interview, and then about a week later, I got an email and they offered me a job to coach the D1 team.”
Medic, who was a junior at Penn State, was a two-year starter for North Allegheny as a first baseman and catcher.
When building the roster, the club had 297 players try out. Medic and the assistant coaches had to pick 23 players for the D1 team and 22 players for the D2 team. Medic said the process was hectic, but after the rosters were finalized, he immediately faced another challenge.
The majority of the returning players were seniors, which meant they were older and had more club experience than Medic. He was unsure of how to coach them, but he overcame the nerves in a short amount of time.
“Going in, I was nervous,” Medic said. “I didn’t want to just come in and say, ‘We’re doing this. We’re doing that.’ I wanted to feel it out, earn their respect, and then once I did, they were fantastic and there wasn’t any looking back. I couldn’t have had a better group going into my first year as a coach.”
The mutual respect on and off the field between the coaches and the players translated between the lines. In Medic’s first season as coach, the team went 27-4 with a 14-0 record in conference play.
The Nittany Lions won the North Atlantic West Conference championship and the regional championship, earning a spot in the NCBA World Series in Greenwood, S.C. Penn State went in as the No. 1 overall seed.
Medic mentioned that the team realized early on how deep the roster was with talent, which is key for club baseball. Medic said the team set its goals and accomplished them one at a time.
“These seniors and the upperclassmen deserved everything they worked for, and they worked their butts off,” Medic said. “Everything I was doing, all the extra work I was doing, all the time I was putting in, was just for them because I realized how bad they wanted it and I know how much they deserved it.”
In the World Series, the team made it all the way to the final four, losing in the rematch with Florida State, 4-1. Nonetheless, the Nittany Lions had magical moments in the tournament. Medic said he was impressed with how the event was run.
“They just they went above and beyond doing all the extra little cool things for everyone to make you feel special, which we deserved. We had a great season and made our way down there, but making that run was so cool,” Medic said. “We fell short, but those would be memories as a team we’ll hold for a lifetime. That just motivates me and motivates all the returning players to just want to work even harder to make sure we get back there next year.”
Pitcher Brady Palmer played a key role as a freshman for the team. He played with Medic at North Allegheny and was impressed with how well he did in his first year as coach.
“I saw a different side of him. His first year of coaching, he grew a lot,” Palmer said. “He learned a lot about himself, but, honestly, everyone on the team I’m sure would agree with me. He was a really, really good coach.”
Palmer pitched in 10 games and went 3-1, posting a 4.36 ERA. He struck out 40 in 30 innings.
Palmer was the youngest player on the team, but he said that motivated him. He also said it didn’t matter if he was younger. He was still going to challenge each batter. Once he got to know his team, he loved playing every second with his teammates.
“It was great getting a good amount of innings, having fun, growing with the team and getting all their support,” Palmer said. “It was great making friends with people that are five years older than me and growing with them. They’re picking me up, and I’m picking them up.”
Schietroma, a junior, also is a WPIAL product, playing for Pine-Richland. Schietroma originally played at Penn State Behrend but joined the club team when he transferred to the main campus this year.
He and Medic played against each other frequently in high school, and he said they got along immediately despite previously being rivals.
“Cam was a great coach. He accepted the role and took off with it immediately,” Schietroma said. “As soon as I signed up for the team on the Google form, he texted me, which was funny because he went to North Allegheny and we would always butt heads twice a year. But as soon as he saw I signed up for the team, he reached out to me. Right off the bat, we got along.”
Schietroma said the team really gained momentum after playing top-ranked Virginia Tech and East Carolina early in the season. The momentum carried into conference play, and Schietroma said the seniors were poised to make a run.
“Even during like the fall workouts, you could tell how hungry that senior class was, and they’d always talk about it,” Schietroma said. “It’s not easy to make it to World Series, obviously, but you can tell in the fall tryouts that the anticipation was there. They talked about, you know, building that roster to make it to the World Series.”
Schietroma looks forward to next season. Despite losing more than 10 seniors, he and the team have high hopes.
”Our D2 team actually was the runner-up in their World Series, so we’ll probably get a lot of those guys to step up to the D1 club and fill the rest of the spots, but I really like where we’re at,” Schietroma said. “I think there’s a good chance to make another deep run next year.”
Tags: North Allegheny
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