The weather has turned. Baseball. Is. BACK. Dingers and bat flips baby.
The #2 nationally ranked Cortland Baseball team hosted SUNY Poly for their home opener on Wednesday. Anthony Visconte, a freshman from East Islip, made his second career start and impressed. He threw five innings, recorded five strikeouts and allowed only one hit.
Cortland opened the first inning by loading the bases only to leave them all stranded. While Visconte was holding the SUNY Poly lineup in check, Cortland couldn’t manage to string together hits and put runs on the board.
Poly’s tough defense played a key part in the first few innings. Poly shortstop Dante Rose flashed his glove and made two diving plays in the fourth, one to his left and one to his right, that prevented two Cortland singles.
In the bottom of the sixth, Cortland manufactured a run without a hit to take the lead 1-0.
Then the madness began.
Lefty sophomore Jake Casey took over for Visconte in the sixth and managed to provide one clean inning before giving up three runs in the seventh with one unearned. Had it not been for a muffed play at second by shortstop Dan Schweitzer trying to turn two, the Red Dragons would’ve gotten out of the inning unscathed.
Now up 3-1, the 1-12 SUNY Poly squad had #2 ranked Cortland with their backs up against the wall. Cortland Coach Joe Brown knew he had to utilize his bench if they were going to win.
“The bench is the biggest thing that has carried us through 20 games so far. We’ve lost a lot of games (over the past few seasons) just with guys being injured. Tyler Phillips who pinch hit in the DH spot, it’s the first time he played in two weeks. Paul Dondero was sore so we didn’t start him. But you know, we have six guys with double-figure RBI’s right now and that’s the strength of our team. If you’re not getting it done, I’ll substitute you and boom, the next guy goes out and gives it a shot.”
Following a flurry of substitutions, pinch hitters and pinch runners alike, Cortland put up four runs on four hits in the bottom of the eighth. Although four runs on four hits sounds like a simple inning, it was anything but simple. In fact, it included one of the more bizarre plays that I’ve seen in baseball.
Coach Brown’s substitutions paid off in the eighth. He had Jack Massa pinch hit for Ralph Nuzzi who led off the inning with a double. Next up was first basemen Patrick Schetter who reached base with a walk. Coach Brown then signaled down to catcher Justin Teague to square up for a bunt, and Teague executed the bunt to perfection. SUNY Poly’s bunt defense wound up sending the first basemen charging for the ball, but no one covered first, giving Teague a single and leaving Cortland with the bases juiced.
Brown wasn’t done with his managerial decisions quite yet. He had senior Sean Getman pinch hit for Casey Komanecky, and Getman was prepared. He blasted a double to right-center that cleared the bases, partly due to some risky base running.
Massa scored easily, but Schetter rounded third so wide that it actually looked like he came running from out of the opposing sides’ dugout to just barely beat the throw to the plate standing up. Luckily, his wide turn made Poly catcher Connor Manderson have to reach further than normal to tag him and he was a second late.
Meanwhile, Justin Teague had his mind made up that he was going to score despite Coach Brown trying to hold him up at third. Teague was about three steps behind Schetter when he scored, and it puzzled the catcher just enough so that Teague could reach in with a head-first slide just under the tag. Two huge close plays at home within a matter of seconds where either of them could’ve easily been out.
Colin BeVard then drove in Joe Tardif who pinch ran for Getman at second with a single up the middle to make it 5-3 in favor of Cortland.
That play proved to be the difference-maker for the Red Dragons. The ninth went swimmingly and the side was retired to give Cortland its first home win of the year as well as their 17th on the season.
Cortland will square off against Brockport this Saturday for a doubleheader at home. The first game will start at one o’clock.