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May 21, 2007

 

Red Dragons chase after two titles

Cortland sweeps up IC to win Regionals

Red Dragons

Bob Ellis/staff photographer
SUNY Cortland senior Dan Maycock was named the Regional MVP after the Red Dragons beat Ithaca twice Saturday to earn a trip to the NCAA Division III.

By ALAN BUTLER
Sports Editor

AUBURN — Stepping up to the plate in the bottom of the seventh inning with the bases loaded with SUNY Cortland teammates, cleanup hitter Dan Maycock admitted to having a flash back.
The uncomfortable memory rattling around inside the senior’s noggin was of a year ago when he found himself in this same situation at this same Falcon Park locale under the same pressure that accompanies playing in the NCAA Division III New York State baseball regional.
He had sent a weak ground ball to second base on that occasion, part of a post-season stumble that kept the Red Dragons from moving on to the Division III World Series.
This time around, trailing rival Ithaca College by a run in the opening game of Saturday’s championship round, Maycock had a much happier ending.
“I dug in and just put the bat out there,” he said after connecting on the first pitch he saw and lining a base hit into right field. That two-run single put the Red Dragons ahead to stay for the rest of this memorable and sunny afternoon — and helped Maycock be named the Most Valuable Player. It was the 13th run driven home by the Red Dragon over four days of play, and his school record 63rd RBI of the season.
That clutch hit led the Red Dragons to an eventual 8-5 victory over the Bombers, as Cortland took full advantage of six errors to hand Ithaca its first loss in this double elimination tournament.
In the ensuing title game, the Red Dragons erupted for nine early runs before holding off their regional hosts for a 9-4 victory. That completed a remarkable and determined stretch of baseball that will be rewarded with a trip to Wisconsin this weekend as part of the World Series field.
Over a 26-hour stretch on Friday and Saturday, Cortland reeled off four do-or-die victories. Now this successful season that has produced 40 victories against a handful of defeats will continue with a quest to capture a national title.
In an eight-team gathering of the top teams in the nation in the Milwaukee suburb of Appleton, the Red Dragons will face Kean College from New Jersey at 7:45 p.m. Friday evening at Fox Cities Stadium to get this double elimination World Series underway.
“I AM EXHAUSTED,” said shortstop Matt Vitalone after the Red Dragons clawed their way out of the loser‘s bracket. The junior drove in three runs in Saturday’s opening game and collected four of Cortland‘ s 13 hits in the final despite playing with a banged up finger that caused him to miss seven practice sessions leading up regional play.
 “Everyone was banged up and everyone played through it. We stayed mentally tough and finished the job,” added Vitalone.
The Red Dragons used all 11 pitchers over four days of regional play, with sophomore pitcher George Jweid winning the opener and the finale.
The Red Dragons overcame the losses of starting outfielders Jim Basnight and Anthony Coromato to injury. Cortland High graduate Sean Caughey and Ryan Benson, who was on the roster pretty much for pinch-running duties, stepped up in their absence.
The Red Dragons came back after not finishing the opening day of play until 2:30 in the morning, and then coming back the next afternoon to go 13 innings before losing a pitching duel to Trinity College by a 2-1 margin. A stretch like that would have worn down a different team.
“The definition of a team is Cortland baseball this year,” said head coach Joe Brown. “Any time you overcome adversity and get it down, it’s a great pleasure.”
“It was nice to bear our rival, too,” said Vitalone of humbling Ithaca (27-15) twice, the Rome Free Academy alum already having a friendly rival with high school teammate and Bombers senior outfielder Eric Maya.
There were so many different contributors to Saturday’s success, so many players coming up big. How many other teams could have their tops hitters – Maycock and catcher Mike Zaccardo — go a combined 0-for-9 and still cross the plate nine times while banging out 13 hits in a pressure-packed situation?
JUNIOR PITCHER Ryan Hooper came up big in the opening game victory, holding the Bombers to a lone run over the opening five innings.
Meanwhile, Cortland was scoring twice in the first and twice in the third to grab an early lead. Vitalone had a clutch two-out RBI double and a run-scoring single in that quick getaway.
But Ithaca loaded the bases in the sixth on a Jeremy Peters single, an error and walk — and all three ended up scoring to tie the game at 4-4. Hooper, who had pitched just 21 innings in a dozen appearances heading into regionals, was lifted midway through the seventh inning when Cortland was handing the Bombers the go-ahead run. An error, a sacrifice bunt and walk and a wild pitch produced the go-ahead IC tally.
Cortland’s Steve Nickel opened the bottom of the seventh with a single, but was thrown out at second on an unsuccessful bunt attempt. And after a strikeout, Cortland seemed in trouble. But Coromato was safe on an error, the dangerous Zaccardo walked on four pitches to load the bases and Maycock came through with his go-ahead single.
Leadoff singles by Travis Robinson and Nick DeVito opened the eighth inning and led to two more runs as Cortland pulled away.
DeVito, who started the game as the designated hitter before becoming the third pitcher used by Coach Brown to escape further seventh inning trouble, keep Ithaca in check.
He did not allow a run over the final two innings, giving up only a hit in the eighth and a walk in the ninth. DeVito was credited with his first win of the season.
THAT LED TO a tough decision for Coach Brown, who had to pick a starter for the next winner-take-all game.
Pitcher coach and former Red Dragon hurler Mike Hubbs came up with solution. And even though Jweid had gone six innings while holding Manhattanville to one hit in Wednesday’s late night victory, he got the call.
“It was our pitching coach’s decision,” said Brown. “He said George could do it, so I said let’s give it to George.”
Jweid retired the first 10 batters he faced, and the Red Dragons were insisting they had turned an inning-ending double play before Ithaca catcher Rob Raux cleared the right field fence with a two-run homer to break up the shutout in the bottom of the fourth.
But that time, Cortland was already ahead 9-0 thanks to five runs in the second and four more in the third.
Caughey, Benson and sophomore southpaw pitcher David Limbach would all play key roles.
Outfielder Caughey, who had going through some “crusty old bats” is search of a stick to replace one he broke recently in batting practice, had a two-run single in the second and a RBI base hit in the third.
Benson had to step in when Coromato injured his leg scoring on Maycock’s base hit in the opener. Benson stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the second with the infield drawn in and hit a hard shot that got past the IC second baseman. The play, ruled an error, still scored two vital runs.
All Limbach did was pitch three scoreless innings after taking over one batter in to the seventh inning, a final fly ball to Caughey finishing this remarkable regional journey.

Cortland plays way back into title game

By ALAN BUTLER
Sports Editor

MIDDLETOWN, Conn. — They’re back!
Though few folks believed this SUNY Cortland lacrosse team would get the chance to defend their NCAA Division III championship, this resilient bunch of Red Dragons will now be spending a second consecutive Memorial Day weekend chasing after a national title.
To achieve this coveted goal, the Red Dragons had to overcome the arrival of a new coach, the departure of a large chunk of talented players via graduation and some early season pratfalls that raised a serious doubt whether this team would even be invited to take part in this post-season tournament.
But thanks to a 9-8 victory over host Wesleyan University on the green, green grass of Jackson Field on a sunny Sunday afternoon in the Nutmeg State, the Red Dragons are headed for a rematch with undefeated and No. 1 ranked Salisbury State.
Game time Sunday will be 1:30 p.m. at M&T Bank Stadium in downtown Baltimore, Salisbury advancing with a 9-6 win over Gettysburg on Saturday.
A lot of hard work and perseverance went into getting back to the title game, which Cortland won in dramatic overtime fashion over favored Salisbury a year ago. Even this semifinal success, the third straight road victory on this remarkable 2007 tournament trek for the 15-5 Red Dragons, was in doubt until the defense came up big over the final minute of play.
But survive the Red Dragons did, handing Wesleyan only its third setback in 21 contests.
To go along with that last minute defensive stand, junior attackman Billy Fuchs put away three goals as the Red Dragons showed patience and poise for the most part against the vaunted Wesleyan zone defense anchored by goalie Charlie Congleton.
Senior Mike Felice added two goals and a pair of assists to get the chance to end his career in a national title game — where he was named the MVP a year ago after scoring the winning goal against Salisbury. In the past 11 contests, the attackman from Baldwinsville has 32 goals and 19 assists.
Team scoring leader Ryan Heath came up with two goals and an assist, while sophomore goalie Michael Robinson made 10 saves to help negate Wesleyan’s 35-31 advantage in shots.
And junior Josh Cittadino won 13-of-18 faceoffs, turning one of those into his own fast break goal. That score, coming 17 seconds after Adam Hyde turned a Wesleyan turnover into a goal, gave the visitors an early 4-2 first quarter lead.
After all of that, after losing four games by narrow one-goal margins, new head coach Steve Beville could declare: “I can’t say enough about the tenacity and desire of this team.”
THIS WAS A REMATCH of last year’s semifinal game, which Cortland won 7-6 in overtime on its home turf.
This time around, Wesleyan grabbed a 6-4 lead early in the second half to negate some early Red Dragon success. Coming up with three goals in less than a minute late in the second half could have knocked the wind out of Cortland. Instead, the Red Dragons responded with a dominating second half stretch where they reeled off five unanswered goals against the Cardinals.
“One good thing leads to another good thing and leads to another good thing,” said senior attack man Felice of that crucial juncture when Cortland displayed its championship character.
“It came down to, as they say, it’s not these guy’s first rodeo,” said Beville of how the Red Dragons kept their composure at this on campus site referred to as the ‘Bird Cage’ by fans of Wesleyan’s Cardinals. “A lot of these guys have been in pressure situations before.”
With a 9-6 lead, Cortland was content to chew off the final minutes of the fourth quarter and was having some success before a scrambling Wesleyan defense created two turnovers. The Cardinals turned those Red Dragon miscues into transition goals by Mike Hines and Jason Ben-Eliyahu.
With 2:25 left to play, the Red Dragon lead had suddenly dwindled to a single goal.
And though Cittadino won the ensuing faceoff, the Cardinals got the ball back and got off an off-target shot — which led to Red Dragon defender Zach Malone going down with a leg injury. While he was being attended to, the Red Dragon defense gathered in front of their crease.
“We huddled up and said this is the way we want it,” said defensive midfield Keith Greene. “There were two great defenses out there, but we feel we’ve always felt we’ve been under-appreciated. It was time for us to step up.”
From a scramble in front of the crease, goalie Robinson eventually dug out a groundball from behind the cage with 1:14 left play, only to have Cortland botch its clearing attempt.
Moments later, Robinson came up with a big save with 51 ticks remaining, only to have Cortland botch its clearing attempt… again.
WESLEYAN COACH John Raba used a timeout with 45.3 seconds left to plot the final try to get this game even and into overtime.
Wesleyan tried to isolate a midfielder against short-stick defender Greene, who stubbornly held his ground and twice forced the Cardinal player to retrieve a loose ball off the ground. “We’ve been doing it since I’ve been a freshman, those one-on-one drills in practice with last shot scenarios,” he said.
Going nowhere, the Cardinals tried to pick on Greene’s partner in crime and fellow Red Dragon football player Greg Steward, and had the same lack of success against that determined defensive midfielder.
In a desperate bid to get to the crease with the clock winding down, the ball was knocked loose. Steward scooped up that turnover and was galloping towards midfield when this game ended. Wesleyan never did get a chance to fire off a final shot.
Hines and Ben-Eliyahu finished with two goals apiece for the Cardinals. And things looked good for the hosts when John Killeen scored 53 seconds into the second half, putting Cortland in 6-4 trouble.
But midway through the third quarter, Cortland created a turnover that led to a Fuchs breakaway goal. And when Heath netted a goal with 5:18 left in that period off a Kyle Simensky assist, this game was a 6-6 standoff heading into the final quarter.
That’s when Cortland took over, with a pair of Fuchs goals sandwiched between a Felice score. The Felice crancker came after Stewart and long stick defender Luke Lemon came up with a crushing hit in front of the Red Dragon goal, leading to a Greene fast break opportunity that Felice turned into a spirit-lifting goal.
“We have a great transition game,” said Felice. “That’s been a staple of our program and it got us some good goals today.”
Fuchs struck seven seconds later after some more Cittandino faceoff success and with 8:39 left to play Cortland had a 9-6 lead.
And though that lead almost vanished, the defense came up big on last time. And while the Red Dragons were celebrating this win on the field,  a cheer arose from the Cortland bleachers that echoed through the campus: “Baltimore, Baltimore, Baltimore.”

 

 

 

Lindhorst lifts Homer in final victory

Erich Lindhorst was going to make sure his final game for Homer Central was going to be one to remember.
The senior midfielder scored the game-winning goal with 6:09 left in the fourth quarter to lift the Trojans to a 9-8 OSHL Class B lacrosse win over Chittenango Saturday in the season finale at George W. Butts Field.
The victory closed out the Trojan season at 4-10 in division play and 4-14 overall. The visiting Bears dropped to 4-10 division, 8-10 overall.
“It was good to win the final game of the season,” Homer coach Tom Cottrell said. “We lost to Chittenango in overtime earlier so we knew this would be a close game. We got down 6-2, but the guys kept battling and came back. We really played much better in the second half.
“We have not had the lead late in the game too often,” Cottrell continued. “Our guys did a good job of keeping possession and running out the clock. The guys played hard. The coaching staff was pleased with the final outcome.”
Dylan Mann recorded 10 saves in the Chittenango goal while Kyle Crosley made 10 saves for the Trojans.
HOMER JV boys had their game with Chittenango cancelled.