May 21, 2016
Dragons just a win away
Tyler Clock/contributing photographer
SUNY Cortland’s Steven Figueroa (4) is greeted at home plate by teammates Fabio Ricci (7) and Austin Clock (22) after hitting a first-inning home run to start off Friday’s 13-4 win over Ramapo at the NCAA Division III Regionals at Falcon Park in Auburn.
AUBURN — For the second consecutive baseball season, SUNY Cortland has reached the 40-win plateau.
What interests the Red Dragons a lot more than that impressive accomplishment, however, will be securing one more victory this afternoon at the NCAA Division III New York State Regionals.
Top-seed Cortland and fourth-seed Susquehanna will meet at noon back at Falcon Park to decide the regional champion and who moves on to next week’s Division III World Series in Wisconsin — where the Red Dragons captured the national crown last Memorial Day weekend.
For the third consecutive day in this six-team, double-elimination tournament, Cortland finished with double-digit hits while remaining unbeaten in regional play with a 13-4 victory over New Jersey’s Ramapo College in the first of Friday’s three games.
Leadoff man Nick Hart was 5-for-7 and third baseman Steven Figueroa continued his torrid pace at the plate with a homer and three RBIs as Cortland captured a 19th consecutive victory while improving to 40-5 overall.
Susquehanna then defeated Castleton 7-2 and Ramapo by that same 7-2 margin in a pair of elimination contests, getting the Crusaders from Pennsylvania into the championship round. Susquehanna will have to beat Cortland twice today to move on to the World Series.
Against Ramapo’s Roadrunners, Cortland finished with 20 hits and took advantage of seven walks to support starting pitcher Jeff Cooke. The junior right-hander is now 7-1 after working into the ninth inning, giving up 10 hits, striking out nine batters and issuing three walks.
Figueroa hit a solo homer in the first inning and added a double, Matt Personius finished 3-for-4 with two RBIs and second baseman Connor Griffin had a three-run double when Cortland pulled away for good with a five-run outburst in the ninth inning.
Ramapo held a 3-2 lead through three innings — the first time Cortland has been behind at regionals — and was within 4-3 when the Red Dragons pulled away.
Also for the Red Dragons, Fabio Ricci, Justin Teague, Conrad Ziemendorf and Paul Dondero all had two-hit success. Scott Paulus and Joe Crabbe each went 2-for-4 for Ramapo (35-12-1).
Figueroa’s homer in the first and a run-producing ground-out in the third put Cortland ahead 2-0. Ramapo then took the lead with three runs in the bottom of the third, all arriving with two outs. Brandon Martinez singled in two runs and Paulus slid an RBI single through the right side.
Cortland regained the lead with two runs in the top of the fifth. Ricci doubled with one out and scored on an Austin Clock double. Tyler Curto relieved Ramapo starting pitcher Ali Garcia, and Ziemendorf singled up the middle to drive home Clock and put Cortland up 4-3.
The Red Dragons pushed across four runs in the sixth to go up 8-3.
Hart, who recorded hits in each of the last four innings, led off with sixth with a single. Figueroa doubled down the left field line to score Hart and Ricci walked. After Ramapo got the next two Cortland batters out, Dondero hit an RBI single through the left side and, after a steal, Personius lined a two-run single up the middle.
Cortland finished its scoring with five runs in the top of the ninth started when Cortland High alum Griffin came up with a two-out, three-run double. A Teague single and Hart double brought home the final two Red Dragon runs.
Cooke faced the first two Ramapo batters in the top of the ninth and got a groundout before pinch-hitter Jared Ensmenger doubled. Jason Martin came on in relief and, after a walk, ended the game with a strike out-caught stealing double play. Ensmenger crossed the plate from third during the play to create the final score.
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