CORTLAND, N.Y. – (CORTLAND ATHLETICS) – Tournament MVP Scott Roberts (Escondido, CA/Del Norte) held Oswego to one unearned run over the final seven and a third innings and Cortland rallied from an early 5-1 deficit as the host and nationally 22nd-ranked Red Dragons defeated the 21st-ranked Lakers, 8-6, in Game 3 of the best-of-3 State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) Baseball Finals series.
Cortland won its first SUNYAC tournament title since 2016, and with the win the Red Dragons (27-6) earn an automatic berth into the NCAA Division III tournament, which begins on Thursday, May 27. The official tournament field and regional assignments will be announced on Sunday night on NCAA.com. Cortland will be making its 28th consecutive NCAA tournament showing, a new Division III record that it previously shared with Marietta College of Ohio.
Oswego (24-5), which won SUNYAC tournament titles in 2018 and 2019 (and was the 2017 champion when weather canceled that year’s tournament) will await a possible NCAA at-large berth. The NCAA tournament field was reduced this year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, from 58 to 48 teams, which in turn reduced the number of at-large berths to six.
The teams matched each other in the first two innings, scoring once in the first and four times in the second for a 5-5 tie. Oswego scored in the first on a Ryan Enos RBI groundout and Cortland scored on James Varian’s (Hopewell Junction/Trinity-Pawling’s) RBI single. In the second, Oswego plated four runs on a two-run Paul Tammaro double and an Enos two-run homer, but Cortland responded with a Ben Rhodes (Amsterdam) RBI double, a Chris Bonacci (Syracuse/West Genesee) RBI single and a Scott Giordano (Croton-on-Hudson/Croton-Harmon) two-run single.
Roberts, Cortland’s second reliever, entered in the second with two outs and got a flyout to end the inning. He pitched the rest of the way, allowing five hits and no walks and striking out three for his first win of the season.
Oswego did take a 6-5 lead in the top of the fifth on a Brendon Frank single, a steal and an error, and an Enos RBI single. Cortland opened the bottom of the fifth with a Daniel Coleman (Saratoga Springs) walk, a Mat Bruno (Rye) double, and a Rhodes two-run double to take its first lead of the game at 7-6. The Red Dragons added a run in the sixth on back-to-back doubles by Varian and Coleman to go up 8-6. Cortland had other scoring chances during the game but hit into double plays to end the second, fourth, fifth and seventh innings – three on grounders and one, in the fifth, on a flyout-throw out double play.
Roberts retired the side in order in the sixth, gave up a two-out double to Enos but nothing else in seventh, and induced a double play grounder in the eighth after Ryan Weiss led off the inning with a single. In the ninth, pinch hitter Jacob Levine singled with one out. Tammaro then lined out to Rhodes at short, and a pinch runner at first was doubled up to end the game.
Cortland finished the game with 13 hits. Rhodes was 2-for-3 with two doubles, a hit by pitch and three RBI, Bonacci went 2-for-2 with two walks and an RBI, Giordano finished 2-for-5 with a double and two RBI, Andrew Michalski (Buffalo/St. Francis) went 2-for-3 with a double, and Varian was 2-for-5 with a double and RBI. Coleman reached base three times on a double and two walks.
For Oswego, Enos was 3-for-4 with a homer, double and four RBI and Tammaro was 1-for-4 with a walk, two RBI and two runs. Ronald Loomis started for the Lakers and gave up five runs, four earned, in an inning and a third. Jai Sharma took the loss after giving up three runs on seven hits with three walks and two strikeouts in four and two thirds innings, and Thomas Pecchia tossed two scoreless innings with one hit and one walk allowed. Matt Funk (Pine Plains) started on the mound for Cortland and gave up three runs in an inning and third and Stephen Centorani (Windsor) allowed two runs in a third of an inning before giving way to Roberts.