MARCY, N.Y. – The SUNY Polytechnic Baseball Team swept Penn College in their final NEAC regular season games of the year on a day that turned out to be crucial for the Wildcats. Trailing the NEAC leading Penn State Abington Nittany Lions by just one game in the standings heading into Sunday, SUNY Poly earned the NEAC Regular Season Championship when the Lancaster Bible College Chargers upset the Nittany Lions late in the second game of a doubleheader Sunday evening. With the Abington loss and SUNY Poly wins, the Wildcats pulled in to a tie with the Nittany Lions, each with identical 11-3 records in conference. However, SUNY Poly swept Penn State Abington earlier in the season, earning the tiebreaker and subsequently the right to host the NEAC Tournament next weekend, beginning on Friday, May 8th.
The Wildcats earn the #1 seed and the right to host for the first time since 2011, when the team finished 22-14 and 12-2 in conference.
While the Wildcats needed the Nittany Lion loss to take over first place, SUNY Poly was far from "backing in" to the NEAC pole position. The Wildcats have been on a tear of late, winning their final 8 conference games of the year and 9 of their last 10 games overall.
The team won plenty of tight games over the stretch, and Sunday was no different.
In game one the Wildcats grinded away against one of the league's top pitcher, Division I –transfer Ryan Hostrander. The hard-throwing righty had lost just one game entering Sunday's contest and boasted an ERA under 3.00.
If SUNY Poly was intimidated, however, they didn't show it. The home team tagged Hostrander for 9 hits in his 6 innings of work, scoring single runs in the first and third innings before opening up for 3 in the bottom of the 6th.
Leadoff batter Ray Smith had a tremendous day overall, and was particularly effective in the first game. The speedy centerfielder went 2-for-3 with an RBI and scored twice – once in the first inning, and again in the 3rd after a deep double to right field that one-hopped the fence. Smith and others did a great job all game of taking the hard-throwing Hostrander to the opposite field, not trying to do too much with the righty, who throws from a deceiving three-quarter arm slot.
Smith showcased the glove as well, diving on a ball to straightaway center in the top of the 5th, snagging the dying liner to end the inning.
SUNY Poly starter Jeff Albright certainly appreciated the effort, though it was one of the few times all game that the lefty needed much help. The senior has had his best season of his four-year career so far in 2015, and Sunday's performance was indicative of his season's success. Albright was dominant, striking out 10 in 8 innings of work while allowing just 2 runs and 4 hits.
Albright's control was key to his success. He walked only two, and made big pitch after big pitch when he needed them. Albright showcased a tough-minded approach right from the start. After falling behind the first batter of the game 2-0 and then 3-1, Albright came back to strike out the righty-batter on a beautiful called third strike, an inside fastball.
Albright took a no-hitter into the 5th inning, which was only broken up by an infield base hit.
Albright's battery mate Anthony Ragosta also had a big game. In addition to calling a great game behind the dish, Ragosta went 2-for-4 with a run scored. He got things started in the big 6th inning for the Wildcats, doubling to right center with one out to give SUNY Poly their first base runner. They would go on to score three runs in the inning on four hits.
Andrew Scharra came on in the 9th for the Wildcats, closing the door 1-2-3 to earn his second save of the year.
The senior Joe Redmond got the start in game two. On a big day nationally for boxing, the 6-foot-4 right-hander complemented Albright perfectly as a 1-2 combination of pain for the opposing hitters. Just like Albright before him, Redmond turned in 10 K's in a complete game performance. Redmond allowed 2 runs on 6 hits while walking only one, running into trouble only in the 3rd when Penn College mounted a two-out rally, scoring twice on a walk and 3 singles – including a slow-rolling infield base hit to short.
The Wildcats were down 2-1 heading into the fourth, when a well-placed groundball by second baseman Ryan Kelly turned into a double, scoring Connor Passalacqua – whose two out triple to deep right-center field got things going for the home team.
Finally in the 5th the home team broke things open. Another Ray Smith double to lead off the inning helped get things started. From there the Wildcats were aided somewhat by their opposition, who made two errors on sacrifice bunts in the inning, augmenting the damage of SUNY Poly's 3 hits to result in a four-run inning. O'Rourke and Gorski added hits in the inning – the former a double down the right field line, the latter a single up the middle.
SUNY Poly's sweep was rewarded about 30 minutes after the final pitch, when the Chargers held on for a 6-4 win over the Nittany Lions. The Wildcats might want to send Nate Long of the Chargers a gift at some point – the senior ripped a 3-run homer in the bottom of the 6th inning to turn a 4-3 deficit into a 6-4 lead for the Chargers, then finished the game in the top of the 7th on the mound to earn the save.
The Wildcats head to Hamilton College tomorrow for a doubleheader, their final games of the year prior to the NEAC Tournament. Final seedings and tournament information will be posted as soon as official information is released from the conference office. Tomorrow's first game in Clinton is scheduled for 1:00 pm.