The Mercyhurst-North East baseball team had plenty of help from a pair of players with local ties this year, as the Saints came within a win of reaching the National Junior College Athletic Association's Division II World Series.
Austin Alonge, a Westfield Class of 2012 member, and Max Schrantz, who graduated from Dunkirk the same year, were big contributors on a team which finished 31-10 on the year.
"It was great playing with Austin these past two seasons," Schrantz said. "He is a great guy on and off the field, and is without a doubt, one of my closest friends."
Westfield graduate Austin?Alonge and Dunkirk graduate Max Schrantz helped the Mercyhurst-North East baseball team come within a win of reaching the National Junior College Athletic Association’s Division II World Series.
The 31 wins by the Saints set a school record, as they won the Region III title for the second time in the program's 16-year history.
"After losing in the region championship my freshman year, it was a great feeling to bring home the title this year," Schrantz said.
"Winning the Region III title was one of the best experiences I've ever had," Alonge added. "Right from the get go, we knew that we had what it took to win championships."
However, a pair of losses to Westchester Community College in the Eastern District tournament ended the Saints' season.
"Although we were really excited with the win, we were not satisfied and really did everything possible to try and keep our season going," Schrantz said.
Schrantz was selected as a member of the All-Region 3 First Team as a designated hitter, after he finished the season hitting .354 and slugging .537 in 27 games.
"I was very surprised," Schrantz said of the post-season award. "There was a lot of talent in our conference this year, with players that have very bright futures."
Schrantz added two home runs, two triples and five doubles while he also drove in 14 runs and scored 10 more.
"I think my biggest improvement has just been how much I have matured as a ball player," Schrantz said. "Over the past two years, my knowledge of the game has drastically increased and that has directly affected my play. I learned many things under Coach Bertolini, things that I will remember the rest of my life."
Alonge finished the season hitting .254 in 41 games, primarily at third base. He had two doubles, a triple and a home run to go with 23 RBI and 26 runs scored.
"Having a year of experience under my belt going into this season made a big difference," Alonge said. "Last year, I didn't know what to expect going in and I was new to that kind of competition. Using my experiences from my first year, I was able to adapt better to certain situations."
Alonge, a team captain, finished his two-year career at Mercyhurst-North East with a .306 batting average and is the single-season record holder for hits, at-bats, games started, games played and triples. He was named to the Region 3 Second Team, as a third baseman, the past two seasons and was the 2014 Male Student Athlete of the Year.
"Moving forward, I feel like I still need to work on my mental approach to the game since there are so many ups and downs throughout a season," Alonge said. "That will help me be more consistent with my play."
Alonge will head to Mercyhurst next year on an academic/athletic scholarship, where he will play baseball for head coach Joe Spano and begin working toward a degree in sports medicine/pre-occupational therapy.
"Going into next year, Coach Spano has mentioned my ability to play many different positions," Alonge said. "My plan is to go in and help the team win any way I can."
Schrantz will continue his baseball career a little closer to home, as he will join head coach Matt Palisin and the Fredonia State Blue Devils.
"He hasn't directly stated what role he expects me to play," Schratz, who will work toward a degree in business administration, said of his conversations with Palisin. "Although he has told me that he is interested in me playing all over the field. He expects me to make a big impact and I am going to try my best to do so."
Although they were teammates in college the past two seasons, it was not the first time Alonge and Schrantz had put on the same uniform.
"We have been playing together since we were 8 years old and have played together every summer since," Alonge said. "We are currently playing in the AAA MUNY league out of Buffalo."
"I actually started playing with Austin when I was about 9 years old on a travel team," Schrantz added. "From there, we went our separate ways until my dad (Frank Schrantz) decided to start up a travel team when we were 16, and we have been playing together ever since."
Although they will move on to different teams and institutions of higer learning next fall, Alonge and Schrantz will have memories from the last two seasons that will surely last a lifetime.