It’s finally baseball season again and it is easy to tell, especially if you live in Cortland, New York. The sun is shining, flowers are starting to bloom, and it is practically picture perfect baseball weather every day.
Unfortunately, I was being sarcastic in every statement I made above, besides the fact that it is baseball season again. It is a chilly 20 degrees in Cortland with snow showers occurring sporadically throughout the week.
Nonetheless, Cortland’s baseball team has to prepare for the season ahead as they look for redemption from last season’s crushing defeat in the SUNYAC Championship at the hands of Oswego.
Cortland has been a powerhouse in the 19 years they have had Joe Brown as Head Coach. Since Brown took over the program, they have made it to every SUNYAC Championship, winning 15 of them. The team even won the Division III National Championship in 2015.
This year the goal is the same as always, to win.
To start the season, just like every other Upstate New York baseball program, Cortland travels down south to get some tune-up games in. This year, the team started off in San Antonio, Texas when they played Trinity baseball on the weekend of February 8th.
Cortland lost the two games they played against Trinity, but won two of the next three games they played. In Maryland, they went up against Salisbury and went 1-1, the following weekend they played Penn State Abington in Endwell, New York and won 14-5.
While winning is always important, conference play doesn’t begin until March 22nd when Cortland will meet Plattsburgh in Georgia to play their first conference games of the season.
Players To Watch
An offensive player to look out for this season is junior, Joe Tardif. Last year, Tardif had a strong sophomore season as he had a slash line of .400/.526/.500. He had the best average on the team and his 90 at-bats were the eighth most for Cortland, behind mostly seniors. In addition to his ability to hit at the plate, Tardif is also an elite fielder. His lightning quick speed allows him to track down most fly balls in the outfield.
To this point in the season, Tardif has struggled, going only 3-for-17 in the five games he’s played, but he is a strong hitter and should be more productive as the season moves on.
As for the pitchers, I would keep an eye on junior, Stephen Salisbury. Last season, the left-handed Salisbury was a reliever for the Red Dragons and dominated. He had a team-low ERA of 1.57, saved two games and pitched in 28 2/3 innings, the most of any reliever for the team last season.
Some more impressive stats from Salisbury’s 2018 campaign include him only allowing two extra-base hits against him, and opposing batters hit an abysmal .196 when he was on the mound.
I would expect him to be the most used reliever on Cortland’s roster this season and be brought in for high leverage situations when the game is on the line. It is also possible that Coach Brown could opt to lengthen out his stud pitcher and use him as a starter, but he has not started that process to this point.
As has always been the case since Joe Brown has been at the helm for Cortland baseball, it is likely that this team will compete for a SUNYAC Championship. Beyond Conference play, it is hard to tell how Cortland would compare to the other teams in the NCAA Championship, should they get that far, but Coach Brown has won a ring in the past and there’s no reason to believe he can’t do it again.
Cortland’s Home Opener is on March 29th at 3 p.m. as they host the Oneonta Red Dragons and kick off a three-game series.