“Cinderella Cats”: One Magical Summer

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Kevin Higgins

When we last left the Quinnipiac University baseball team, they were fighting for MAAC playoff positioning in the upcoming conference tournament.

To say the least… a lot has changed since.

After finishing the regular season as co-champions with the Canisius Golden Griffs, the Bobcats roared through the MAAC tournament in Staten Island, N.Y. Quinnipiac never trailed after the 6th inning in any of its games, but the program’s first-ever MAAC title still didn’t come easy.

The Bobcats hung on for dear life in a 6-4 win against the Fairfield Stags to open the tournament, then outslugged the Manhattan Jaspers 11-6 to advance to the championship round, where they would face their in-state rival for the second time in three days.

After a 13 inning marathon, Kevin Huscher scored on a mad dash to home following a wild pitch, and the rest of his teammates met him at home plate for a massive dogpile to celebrate the 6-5 win that sent Quinnipiac to its first NCAA tournament since 2005.

A tough draw awaited John Delaney’s squad, as they were placed into the Greenville Regional, where the #10 East Carolina Pirates waited in front of their notoriously rowdy crowd.

In an extremely hostile environment with all of the pressure on, Quinnipiac’s biggest stars shone bright. Chris Enns and Colin Donnelly were terrific on the mound, and the lineup’s most feared hitter put his name into the national spotlight.

With the game tied at 3 in the seventh inning, Liam Scafariello launched a go-ahead, two-run moonshot that even made its way to SportsCenter. Donnelly made sure the lead held up, and the Bobcats pulled off the biggest upset of the entire tournament, as a 5-4 win over the Pirates marked the first NCAA tourney win in Quinnipiac history.

After the win, Delaney made sure to point out all of those who had doubted his group along the way. 

“There’s always been some type of doubt on who we are,” Delaney said. “Whether it was last year being picked eighth in the league then finishing with the best record, or this year, being picked fourth and ending up winning the regular season title and MAAC Tournament.”

Following the program-defining win, Quinnipiac squared off with the Campbell Camels, as a trip to the regional final was in store for the winner. What resulted was nine innings of exhilarating, back-and-forth baseball with both teams trading haymakers. 

However, the last punch by Campbell resulted in a death blow. 

After Quinnipiac took an 8-7 lead in the top of the ninth off a wild pitch, the Camels rallied for two runs in their last turn at bat, as an RBI double and sac fly doomed Quinnipiac in a heartbreaking 9-8 walk-off loss. 

Thanks to rain outs on the first night of the regional, a short turnaround was in store for Quinnipiac, as they had to face East Carolina again just hours later in an elimination game – this time, the hosts would not be so kind.

The Pirates closed the book on the Bobcats’ historic season, as a Quinnipiac team that was both physically and emotionally spent was dispatched by a 13-3 score. Despite the loss, Delaney knew that the team’s impact reached much further than just a few magical days.

“It’s going to be hard for people not to mention Quinnipiac after this weekend,” Delaney said. “When you try to build an elite program, we’ve done a big piece in making that a reality now.”

So yes, it certainly was a busy summer for the boys in blue and gold. From Hamden to Staten Island to North Carolina, there were plenty of ups, downs, and unforgettable moments that filled the roller coaster that was the 2019 season. 

But ask any one of them if they’d have it any other way.