May 7, 2011
Hurler Assmann gets job done for Dragons
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
John Adornetto of SUNY Cortland dives safely into home, as New Paltz catcher Matt Kaldon awaits the ball, to score a run on Chris Jackson’s fifth inning sacrifice fly Friday at Wallace Field.
In the thought process of SUNY Cortland head coach Joe Brown, turning to Mike Assmann for the opening pitching assignment in the conference baseball playoffs was hardly a risky thing.
Though the senior right-hander out of Auburn is not considered among the aces on this deep Red Dragons staff, on the first day of the SUNY Athletic Conference tournament that got underway on a sunny Friday at Wallace Field in Cortland he proved to be the right man for the job.
After giving up a first inning run to fourth-seed New Paltz, Assmann was downright stingy as the top-seeded Red Dragons got things rolling in this double-elimination tournament with a 6-1 victory over the Hawks.
The unassuming Assmann got the best of highly-regarded Hawks hurler Chris Chismar, too — the same pitcher who just beat Cortland 3-2 in a regular season game last weekend and who had whiffed 75 batters in 55 innings coming into the post-season.
“Not at all,” said Brown of having any doubts about setting up his pitching rotation for the playoffs by giving Assmann the ball first.
“Mike’s got one of the lowest ERAs on the team. He pitched against one of the best hitting teams we played this year, Keystone, and to be honest with you he was the most rested,” continued Brown. “He pitched quite a while ago and we felt if he could get through that first inning he would be all right. His ball was up, and his ball sinks. Against Keystone (in a 6-1 Cortland win) he had 17 ground ball outs, and that’s what he needs to do.”
That’s just what Assmann did while improving to 5-1 on the season with a glittery 1.64 earned run average. Giving up only six hits in his 7-2/3 innings of work, he didn’t walk a batter, picked up a lone strikeout and received sure-handed errorless defensive support.
Assmann induced a dozen ground balls for the majority of his 23 outs against the Hawks, eight of those handled by second baseman Matt June.
And with Zack Graczyk collecting three hits and scoring three times, with clean-up hitter Nick Thode driving in three runs, the Red Dragons (31-7) provided plenty of offensive support while advancing into today’s winner’s bracket final against third-seed Oneonta (21-15) that starts at noon.
The winner of that game advances into Sunday’s championship round that also begins at noon. The loser will face Brockport in a 3:30 p.m. elimination contest today.
“THE FIRST INNING scared me a bit,” admitted Assmann, as New Paltz had three singles and two well struck balls that were caught in the outfield in that opening frame.
Cortland right-fielder Graczyk just missed ending the first inning with a diving catch down the line, but was unable to secure the first of four Matt Prescia hits. While Prescia’s single plated the game‘s first run, the inning ending when Graczyk recovered to throw out another Hawk at the plate trying to score on that same play.
“I think everyone, this year, they know I just throw a lot of strikes,” said Assmann of the aggressive Hawks, who ripped into his first three pitches for a line drive out, a base hit and a fly ball to deep right. “I haven’t walked a lot of guys so they’re going to swing real early. So the game plan was to throw a lot of strikes and let them hit it on the ground... basically, just let them get themselves out.”
The Hawks did just that after their first inning success.
While New Paltz was being held scoreless the rest of the way, Cortland came back to scratch out three runs off Chismar before New Paltz coach Matt Griffiths lifted his starter two outs into the seventh inning. Chismar only struck out three Red Dragons, hurt more by seven walks and a hit batter.
“Just having played them, we knew it was going to be a challenge with Chismar. There was a question, do you throw one of your (top) guys?” said Brown, his team held to four hits and striking out eight times against Chismar in the previous seven-inning loss at New Paltz. “Mikey Assmann has been in a World Series, been in a regional championship… you can’t go wrong with selecting whoever. And it’s really not so much about the other team. It’s 100 percent about how we execute.”
Cortland could not execute after loading the bases with no outs in the bottom of the fourth. Chismar wriggled out of trouble turning a pitcher-to-catcher-to-first base double play on a ball tapped to the mound before ending the threat with a strikeout. But what Assmann accomplished in the top of the fifth was the turning point in Brown’s eyes.
“THE BIGGEST INNING of the game was the next inning, when we went out defensively and went 1-2-3 and put Chismar right back on the mound,” said Brown, Chismar having thrown 31 pitches in the fourth inning compared to the eight Assmann threw breezing through the fifth.
One-out into the fifth, Chismar could not make a barehanded play on a ball dribbled down the third base line by Graczyk. That infield hit was followed by a walk to John Adornetto. Thode singled sharply to center on the first pitch he saw to tie the game up at 1-1.
Adornetto moved to third on a wild pitch and then avoided the catcher’s tag at the plate to score the go-head run on a Chris Jackson sacrifice fly.
Graczyk made it 3-1 in the seventh after a leadoff single. He stole second, beat the throw to third on an Adornetto bunt and scored while New Paltz was turning a double play. After walking Jackson on four straight pitches following that twin killing, Chismar’s day was over.
Cortland added three more runs in the bottom of the eighth, all coming after Dan Kaplan drew a two-out walk. Kaplan stole second, was wild-pitched to third and scored when June put down a perfect bunt down the third base line. After Graczyk singled to left and Adornetto filled the bases with an infield hit, Thode singled home the final two runs.
New Paltz got a pair of two-out hits in the ninth off Cortland reliever Brendan Hourihan — and had another potential base hit taken away by the glove work of Kaplan at third — but came away empty.
IN OTHER GAMES —
Oneonta 5, Brockport 2: Oneonta opened the tournament knocking off the second seeds, as Westhill product Michael DeCarr went 4-for-4 at the plate and starting pitcher Christopher Smith pitched a six-hitter with seven strikeouts. Jonathan Wolfanger and Pete Lindner both drove in two runs for the Red Dragons.
Brockport 9, New Paltz 8: Brockport came back to eliminate the Hawks in the day’s finale when catcher Michael Goldstein singled home the winning run over a drawn-in infield in the bottom of the ninth inning with Golden Eagles perched on second and third. Max Zimmerman drove home three runs for the winners, while Jimmy Briggs smacked a three-run homer and drove in five runs for New Paltz (20-19).
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