May 24, 2012
Red Dragons’ Mr. Consistency
June a senior sparkplug for Cortland
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
SUNY Cortland second baseman Matt June, turning a double play here, is the lone senior starter for a Red Dragons team playing in the NCAA Division III World Series this weekend in Wisconsin.
When SUNY Cortland head baseball coach Joe Brown fills out his line-up card for Friday’s NCAA Division III World Series opener, the first name penciled in will be that of his only senior starter.
Throughout a 22-game winning streak the Red Dragons will be lugging to Wisconsin, where their quest for a national title resumes with an opening day game against New Jersey’s Kean University, Matt June is the name Coach Brown has always jotted down in the leadoff spot.
That simple act has always been rather comforting.
Steady second baseman June will be one of the few Red Dragons who has gone through this World Series experience at Fox Cities Stadium in the town of Grand Chute before, having been part of the 2010 squad that ended up second-best in the nation.
“I don’t think I can warn them about anything,” said June of being able to translate what that experience was like to his teammates heading into this Memorial Day weekend eight-team, double-elimination madness. “I think we’re pretty ready. It’s just another tournament. Yeah there will be pressure, but I think everyone will be all right. It’s just another tournament and hopefully we’ll have fun and can win it all.”
One of just seven players in Cortland history to have over 200 career hits, June’s four seasons at Cortland have certainly been enjoyable. And though the Cortland roster always changes season to season, June one of just six current players still around off that World Series squad of two years ago, the guy patrolling second base has certainly stayed the same.
“He’s been on a lot of different teams, and the one thing about him is he’s consistent. Matt June is consistent. It defines him,” says Coach Brown.
This team captain for the 39-7-1 and nationally second-ranked Red Dragons has always been a coach’s dream. Or as Brown says: “He’s the kid that loves practicing.”
Take for example the Red Dragons’ final home field workout on Tuesday afternoon prior to hopping a bus to Buffalo for an early morning Wednesday flight to the Midwest. “We’re out here in his last practice ever on Wallace Field and the kid’s diving all over the field... and he’s a senior,” said Brown.
THE FIRST BIG impression the somewhat diminutive 5-foot-9, 180-pound June made on his coach came playing in the Empire State Games at Pace University some five summers ago.
“Everyone is looking at these other big kids and everything and I’m watching this little shortstop for the Adirondack team running around,” recalls Brown. “He got on base 13 out of 16 times, made every play and I said: ‘That’s the kid I want. He’s going to play for me.’ So he comes here and in the fall everyone is saying, ‘Do you really think so? He’s a little rigid. He’s a tiny, little kid.’ But he’s got the right stuff, he was raised right and 200 hits later....”
June will bring a .348 batting average into the World Series. He’s a contact hitter who has only been whiffed 10 times in 178 at bats, who leads the team with 13 stolen bases, who had made only six errors out of 213 chances in the field while being a part of 22 double plays turned by the Red Dragons infield. A year ago, the 63 singles hit by junior June were the second best single-season total ins school history.
“I looked at a whole bunch of schools, and I came here and saw the way everything was run by Coach Brown and it was a pretty easy decision, honestly,” said June on how he ended up in Cortland. “I have no complaints and this is the best way to end it right here. Hopefully, we can bring home the title.”
“He’s blue collar through and through. He brings it every day,” said Brown, who offered a little story on how unassuming the kid can be, too.
How excited was June when he was named a team captain heading into his junior baseball season at Cortland? Well, Coach Brown was calling the June household in the Albany suburb of Colonie, trying to talk younger brother Jami into coming to play for the Red Dragons, when he asked if the family had heard that news.
Of course, the brothers and both parents —his father a former SUNY Oneonta baseballer while mom has a field hockey past — had not been informed of that accomplishment at all. “That’s him,” says Brown. “Some kids might call home and tell everyone they know, and this kid didn’t tell anybody. And that was as a junior.”
The younger June brother is attending Cortland, but has yet to be talked onto the baseball team by the current team captain — who has not given up trying.
THE OLDER BROTHER will be asked to ignite a Cortland offense that beat host Farmingdale State twice to win the New York Regional last week despite getting only three hits in each game.
“We feel confident, now the guys just have to play,” said June, shrugging off that lack of offensive punch at regionals. “We were hitting the ball well, just at people. Hopefully we’ll get some breaks this time, but we’re still winning and that’s all that matters.”
“The thing with our offense is they’re just tough, tough outs,” said Brown, who has 11 players batting over .300 at his disposal. Designated hitter and regional MVP Andrew Pezzuto is batting .375, while shortstop John Adornetto (.362), center fielder Michael LaTempa (.362), third baseman Bryan Mistretta (.343), first baseman Max Rosing (.341) and catcher Tim Panetta (.333) are all productive.
“Even though we only had three hits in the semifinals and finals, we didn’t strike out. It was just hitting the ball at people,” noted Brown. “We’ve got to do a better job at situational hitting. It will be tougher because you’re facing good pitching, very good pitching.”
Cortland has good pitching, too. The Red Dragons have leaned on right-handed starters Ray Angelucci (11-1, 1.28 ERA), Aaron Schuldt (8-1, 1.42 ERA) and Mike Hughes (8-2, 2.54 ERA) for most of this seasn.
While Schuldt pitched the opening game at both the SUNY Athletic Conference Championships and the New York State Regionals, a high-pitch count in both of those outings has Coach Brown thinking he’ll give the senior from Liverpool an extra day to rest at the World Series.
Angelucci, a junior out of Albany, will most likely get the nod against Kean. Brown also likes the way Angelucci holds baserunners, which will be crucial against a frisky Kean squad that likes to run.
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