April 6, 2013
Second straight setback stuns Red Dragons
Just last weekend following a three-game conference sweep at Plattsburgh, the SUNY Cortland baseball team was on top of the world.
Riding a seven-game winning streak, the vaunted Red Dragons program would be elevated to No. 1 by Division III national pollsters and appeared headed towards their accustomed place atop the SUNY Athletic Conference standings.
That’s why Coach Joe Brown was so disappointed and perplexed early Friday evening, sitting on his lawn tractor after having raked the Wallace Field infield following an unexpected second straight Cortland setback.
Visiting Brockport had come up with a three-run rally in the top of the eighth inning that was the difference in a 4-1 win over the Red Dragons, who had been stunned 5-4 in 11 innings the previous day at home by an Oswego outfit.
“Embarrassing. I’m embarrassed with how we’re playing right now,” said Brown, as Cortland suffered back-to-back losses for the first time this season while falling to 6-2 in conference play and 17-6 overall.
“We’re playing afraid, which should not happen with a team that’s gone through the competition we’ve faced and with the number of guys who have had post-season experience,” added Brown, defending conference champion Cortland having been an NCAA World Series participant last season. “We should refund.... oh, entrance is free. Still, we’d refund if we could.”
Those spectators who braved Friday’s chilly winds saw 6-foot-7 senior Brockport starter Travis Renwick become the second straight left-handed pitcher to stymie the Cortland offense. He allowed just a lone run over six innings of work, giving up fourth-inning RBI double off the bat of Anthony Iacomini but leaving runners stranded at second and third in that same frame to thwart the only serious trouble he faced.
Right-hander Rob Stankiewicz then threw three shutout innings for the Golden Eagles to close the door on Cortland, including breezing through a 1-2-3 ninth on just five pitches.
Cortland would be out-hit 12-9 on the day, leaving nine runners stranded on base. The Red Dragons also grounded into double plays that closed out the second and seventh innings.
THIS WAS JUST THE second conference win in eight outings for Brockport, who will conclude this series against Cortland with a doubleheader starting at noon today back at Wallace Field.
“We’ve been on this lull where we’ve lost come games, where we played well and the ball just really wasn’t bouncing our way,” said Brockport head man Justin Beach, his Golden Eagles 11-9 overall. “I think we out-played (our opponents) the last two games and just lost. Today, it all evened out.”
Though Cortland went up 1-0 on the Golden Eagles, Coach Brown felt it could have been more. After some mental mistakes that cost Cortland dearly against Oswego the previous day, Brown noted: “We should have scored two runs in Iacomini’s double.”
With one-out in the fourth, first baseman Max Rosing lined a single to center and catcher Tim Panetta legged out a dribbler down the third base line and Cortland was in business. Junior Iacomini, who had singled sharply in the second, then lined a shot over the center fielder’s head. But Rosing waited to see if the ball would be caught, and though he ended up scoring all cautious trail runner Panetta could do was reach third.
A soft liner to short and a groundball ended the Cortland opportunity to do even more damage. “We got up 2-0 there, whew, it’s Katie bar the door,” felt Brown.
Brockport got that run back off previously unbeaten Cortland starter Kyle Barkley (now 4-1) in the top of the fifth. Dan Hurlimann had an infield single, stole second and scored on a two-out base hit from No. 9 batter Mike Gianni.
This game stayed a 1-1 pitching battle between Renwick and Barkley until the eighth inning, which got started with Brockport’s Gianni leadoff opposite field single down the line in left.
Barkley then plunked leadoff hitter Jake Coleman in the chest with a pitch and his six-strikeout, nine-hit day was done. But the next two Cortland relievers hit another batter to fill the bases, walked Brockport’s Pete Wilson on five pitches to force home a run and gave up a two-run single by catcher Nick Bunce past a drawn-in infield to fall behind 4-1.
THE FOURTH CORTLAND pitcher of the inning, senior southpaw George Jweid, kept the damage to a minimum. After an intentional walk loaded the bases with still no outs, a strikeout, a forceout at home on a grounder and a foul pop-up kept Cortland in the game.
“Our pitching is not necessarily an issue, but when it comes to crunch time you can’t hit two guys who are trying to bunt,” said Coach Brown. “You hit two and walk one, and then George comes in and gets us out of what could have been a five, six or seven-run lead for Brockport.
“But then, we didn’t really respond.”
A Rosing two-out single and a Brockport error provided a Cortland chance in the bottom of the eighth, but Iacomini’s bid for his third hit of the day resulted in a line drive drilled right at the Brockport left fielder. The Red Dragons then went quietly in the ninth.
Iacomini finished 2-for-3, Rosing 2-for-5 and leadoff man Zach Graczyk 2-for-5 for a Cortland offense suddenly struggling to score runs.
“They’re clearly the No. 1 team in the conference until someone beats them consistently, and they just lost two in a row,” said Brockport’s Beach of the Red Dragons. “That just shows you how wide open the conference is right now. The game is definitely equalized with the new bats, and you’ve got to play defense and you’ve got to throw strikes and we did that today and they didn’t.”
“There’s a long ways to go but I tell you what, this weekend was a big weekend and we had all our pitching lined up,” said Brown, who will send senior Mike Hughes (2-1) and freshman Brandon Serio (3-1) to the mound against the Golden Eagles today.
“We did our very best go get out there and practice in a tough week of weather, “ he added. “I honestly think we had more practice time (outside) than other people, and that’s what frustrates me. We’re fielding the ball, it ain’t like that. We’re fielding it and we’re pitching it, but this hitting is an epidemic.”
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