Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Birko, Pioneers in a Groove

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Birko, Pioneers in a Groove

Article excerpt

Point Park's Tom Birko and many of his teammates have been there and almost done that ... but not quite.

The Pioneers (38-13) will be making their second consecutive appearance in the NAIA regional baseball tournament next week and hope to reach the World Series for the second consecutive season.

"There's a different feeling this year," said Birko, a redshirt junior second baseman who grew up in Kennedy and graduated from Montour High School. "Our goal this time is to win it all. Making it there last year was a steppingstone. Last year, maybe we were kind of surprised to be there and we didn't know what to expect. I don't know if we felt like the other teams were so much better than us.

"Now we know we have the talent and are as good as anybody in the tournament."

The 25th-ranked Pioneers, who have won 12 in a row and 29 of their past 31, will find out their opponent and the site of the regional Sunday when the NAIA announces the full bracket for the 45- team, double-elimination event, May 9-13.

Point Park advanced by winning the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship this past weekend at New Albany, Ind. The Pioneers defeated Indiana Southeast in the title game, 8- 6, to go 3-0 in the double-elimination tournament.

Birko can pinpoint the date and the reason for Point Park's reversal of fortune. It was March 22 and the Pioneers had just lost a doubleheader to KIAC rival Alice Lloyd College to drop to 9-11.

"We were frustrated. We didn't know what to think," Birko said. "We went back to our hotel that night, somewhere in the mountains of Kentucky, and had a players meeting. We all had something to say and we knew we had to stop worrying about personal things and come together as a team."

Point Park responded with two victories the next day against Alice Lloyd, the beginning of a 16-game win streak.

"We were the same team with the same lineup," he said. …

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