MARCY, N.Y. – The SUNY Poly Baseball Team (16-16, 11-3 NEAC) was eliminated from the NEAC Tournament on Saturday afternoon with an 8-6 loss to defending champion Penn State Berks. The Nittany Lions scored three runs in the 7th and four runs in the 8th inning to erase a 6-1 SUNY Poly advantage.
Although the players were understandably subdued, a nice moment took place following the game as the 5 seniors who were unable to participate in SUNY Poly Commencement due to the game received their diplomas on the field (pictures included in the photo gallery associated with this article). Along with SUNY Poly Athletic Director Kevin Grimmer, Associate Provost for Student Affairs Marybeth Lyons kindly handed out diplomas to the following seniors: Joseph O'Rourke, Gerald Milanes Iglesias, Jeff Albright, Lyle Beane, and Anthony Ragosta.
Despite the defeat, the Wildcats can wrap up their season with heads held high, as the team secured the NEAC Regular Season Championship and the #1 seed in the postseason tournament by winning their final 8 conference games in a row.
Things looked good early on with Wildcat ace and NEAC Pitcher of the Year Joe Redmond (Stone Ridge, N.Y. / Rondout Valley) on the mound. After a scoreless top of the 1st, the Wildcats got on the board early courtesy of some excellent two out work. Joseph O'Rourke (Camden, N.Y. / Camden) started things off with a great piece of hitting, serving a 1-2 pitch the other way to left field for a 2-out single.
O'Rourke's resolve behind in the count was rewarded as a passed ball on a swinging third strike resulted in Gerald Milanes (Brooklyn, N.Y. / Santa Rosa de Lima) reaching first. Up next was Tyler Vyce (Waterford, N.Y. / Shenendehowa), who ripped a single up the middle to score O'Rourke.
On the throw to the plate both Milanes and Vyce advanced, which proved costly when Dylan Gorski (Whitestown, N.Y. / Whitesboro) strolled to the plate and roped a base hit over the 1st basemen's head.
The Wildcats were excellent behind in the count during the 1st inning. O'Rourke's hit on a 1-2 count was complemented by Gorski, who took an 0-2 pitch at his armpits for a line drive just over the 1st baseman's head. The hit scored both Milanes and Vyce, giving SUNY Poly a 3-0 lead early in the game.
Redmond responded on the mound for the Wildcats by working out of a jam in the 2nd. The right-hander loaded the bases but struck out Nittany Lion shortstop Keanu Erb on a beautiful 1-2 fastball to the outside corner.
Redmond continued to battle in the 3rd with the help of some brilliant defense behind him. After turning a single into a double with a bobbled ball, centerfielder Raymond Smith (Staten Island, N.Y. / Tottenville) redeemed himself in a huge way with possibly the play of the tournament thus far. Smith ranged deep into the left-centerfield gap to make a diving catch on a Tom Grablewski ball that would have easily gone for extra bases. Redmond would eventually work his way out of the inning with no runs allowed.
The Wildcats manufactured two more runs in the bottom of the 5th on a single by Smith to lead off the inning, followed by some great bunting by both Josh Rodriguez (Syracuse, N.Y. / Cicero-North Syracuse) and O'Rourke. The former reached on a poor throw by the Berks pitcher, and the latter moved Rodriguez and Smith into scoring position with a perfect sacrifice down the third base line.
The team-first plays couldn't have worked out better as Milanes promptly lined a single to right-center, plating both runners for a 6-1 Wildcat lead.
To the Nittany Lions credit, however, the visitors kept at it. While Redmond allowed just one run before leaving in the 7th inning (the two base runners he left on ultimately scored after he left the game and are therefore credited as his in the box score), the Berks batters made him work for it. The visitors were able to get the righty's pitch count up which brought the Wildcat bullpen into play.
With Redmond out, the Nittany Lions dragged themselves back into the game. Luke Erb was the catalyst for the visitors, working the count by fouling off a few pitches before lining a single through the hole, scoring two.
When the dust had cleared at the end of the 7th frame, SUNY Poly's lead had been cut to 6-4.
Berks picked up right where they'd left off in the 8th, scoring 4 runs on 4 hits. A bloop single off the handle started the inning for the Nittany Lions, who went on to score on a pair of RBI-singles and a wild pitch.
Penn State Berks handed the ball to lefty Kyle Hartman in the 6th inning, and the senior lefty came up big with four scoreless innings of relief to shut the door on the Wildcats. Hartman scattered 4 hits while striking out 3 and walking 1.
With a 13-3 victory later in the day over Penn State Abington, the Nittany Lions advanced to the NEAC Championship, where they will play Penn College of Technology, who emerged from the winner's bracket via a 9-5 victory over Penn State Abington earlier in the day. The game is scheduled for 10:00 am on Sunday, with another game at 1:00 pm if necessary (double-elimination).