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The King of the Hill

by J.T. Toth

Photo courtesy of J.T. Toth.

One morning in the fall of 2002, Marc Marizzaldi answered a small ad in the Post Gazette that read, “Coach/Recruiter for Seton Hill.” Not knowing much about the school besides the fact that it was all-female until about 2000, Marizzaldi decided to reach out.

During his interview, the school administrators asked him if he could coach tennis or cross country. He countered by saying, “Hire me as the Sports Information Director as my second duty. This is something that I helped out with at Lakeland College.”

He was hired and soon after, the men’s baseball program at Seton Hill was born. For Marizzaldi, this was his first collegiate head coaching job. A graduate of Baldwin High School in the Pittsburgh area, he played baseball at Duquesne before returning to Baldwin to be an assistant coach. He eventually took an assistant’s position at Lakeland University before he made his way back to his alma mater and became an assistant coach for Duquesne baseball.

Photo courtesy of J.T. Toth.

The Seton Hill baseball program struggled in its first season and didn’t even play games on campus. They practiced at a local legion field during their first two seasons (2004-2005) and played their home games in Belle Vernon, about 20 miles away from school, before a turf field was built on campus for the 2006 season.

The Griffins went just 17-33 in their inaugural season with a team made up of mostly freshmen. After improving to 27-20 in their second season, Seton Hill jumped into the national spotlight in season three when they went 45-20 and played in their first NAIA World Series. After the season, Marizzaldi was named the American Mideast Conference North Division Coach of the Year and the NAIA Region IX Coach of the Year.

The success in 2006 was just the beginning of an unbelievable run of dominating baseball for the Griffins. Seton Hill has averaged 35 wins a season under Marizzaldi and have won eight regular season division titles, four conference championships, and secured two World Series berths. Marizzaldi has picked up six conference coach of the year awards during this amazing run.

Marizzaldi primarily recruits in a 300-mile radius or 3 hour window from Greensburg. “I believe kids in this region recognize the quality of baseball played in the PSAC,” Marizzaldi said

When asked what Seton Hill offers local kids to make it attractive, Marizzaldi said, “We are one of only 3 private schools in the PSAC and the smallest school in the league (18 institutions). It’s a unique family atmosphere here on the Hill. When we recruit high academic student-athletes, we can be financially competitive with some state schools.”

Though Seton Hill has lost some players to the transfer portal, they have done a good job in their initial recruiting of prospects. He’s even secured the services of Division 1 players transfers to Seton Hill, including Derek Orndorff (Liberty) and Peyton Reesman (Radford).

Since 2007, Seton Hill has had 16 players drafted or signed to professional ball, including this past season's draft that saw left-handed starting pitcher Kevin Vaupel (South Park) get picked in the 16th round by the Miami Marlins.

When asked about how it makes him feel to see a player get selected, Marizzaldi said, “I’m proud that we’ve been able to create an atmosphere that encourages and empowers young men to become the best version of themselves. For a select few, reaching their potential as players is getting paid to play professionally. But for the other 97% of SHU baseball grads, they’re reaching their potential in a variety of careers. But what makes me the most proud is seeing our players eventually become great husbands and fathers.”

With so much success in the rearview mirror, what possibly can the future hold?

That was an easy question for Marizzaldi to answer. “I hope the future looks a lot like the past, with championships on the field, elite success in the classroom, and a brotherhood of proud alumni. We intended 20 years ago to create a tradition of excellence. I think we are on that path, but it requires unwavering commitment each year to high standards on and off the field.”

Spending time on campus with the coach, a few things are evident. A tradition at Seton Hill is being built and current players are part of those building blocks. Baseball fans are starting to know the story of the Seton Hill Griffins and Marc Marizzaldi is the King of the Hill.

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