Press Release from SUNY Cortland Athletics.
The Cortland baseball team tied for third place nationally at the NCAA Division III World Series after splitting two games Sunday. The Red Dragons stayed alive briefly by scoring four runs in the top of the ninth to defeat Wheaton (Mass.), 6-2, but the season came to a close with an 11-8 loss to Salisbury after the Sea Gulls scored four in the top of the ninth to erase a one-run Cortland lead.
Cortland, making its 15th World Series appearance and its NCAA Division III record 28th consecutive national tournament showing, finishes the season with a 33-9 record. The Red Dragons have placed third or better in seven of their 15 Series showings, winning the national title in 2015, finishing as runner-up in 2005 and 2010, and placing third or tied for third in 1997, 1998 and 2016 in addition to this season.
Salisbury (32-4) went undefeated in “Bracket 2” of the tournament, including two wins over Cortland. The Sea Gulls will face St. Thomas, which went undefeated in “Bracket 1,” in the best-of-three national finals series starting Monday at 3:30 p.m.
Game #1: Cortland vs. Wheaton
Matthew Krafft’s (Cornwall) bases-loaded single broke a 2-2 tie in the top of the ninth inning as the Red Dragons, ranked 15th nationally, eliminated 12th-ranked Wheaton (21-7).
James Varian (Hopewell Junction/Trinity-Pawling) was hit by a pitch with one out to start the winning rally. Paul Franzese (Somers) and pinch hitter Colin BeVard (Syracuse/West Genesee) each drew walks to load the bases, and Kraftt hit a two-run, seeing-eye single through the right side to score Varian and Franzese. Bryan Rivera (Rochester/Greece Arcadia), who was pinch running at first base, also scored on the play after the throw from the right fielder sailed into the Wheaton dugout. Krafft ended the play on third base and scored on a Chris Bonacci (Syracuse/West Genesee) RBI single to left.
Wheaton led 2-0 through six innings, scoring on a Nick Croteau sacrifice fly in the second and a Zach DeMattio leadoff homer in the sixth. Cortland, however, tied the game in the top of the seventh. Varian was hit by a pitch, Franzese singled, and Andrew Michalski (Buffalo/St. Francis) reached on a fielder’s choice sac bunt, with Varian beating the throw by the pitcher to third, to load the bases with no outs. Krafft hit a grounder to short that resulted in a force at second, but the throw to first was wild and two runs scored on the play.
Matt Funk (Pine Plains) relieved starter Zack Durant (Verona/V-V-S) in the third inning and earned the win. He gave up six hits and one run with one walk. Wheaton had two runners reach to start the ninth, but Liam Krasney (Greenville) entered and earned the save by retiring all three batters he faced, two on fielder’s choice force outs and the last on a pop-up to short.
Scott Giordano (Croton-on-Hudson/Croton-Harmon) finished 3-for-4 with a walk, Krafft drove in three runs, and Varian and Franzese each scored twice for Cortland. Stephen Quigley and DeMattio each went 2-for-4 for the Lyons. Wheaton starter Josh Roberge went three and a third innings and gave up five runs, three earned, on seven hits with three strikeouts and three walks.
Game #2: Cortland vs. Salisbury
Cortland came back from a 7-3 deficit after five innings, scoring three times in the fifth and taking an 8-7 lead after Mat Bruno (Rye) hit a two-run homer in the seventh.
Salisbury, however, scored four runs on just two hits in the top of the ninth with the help of three hit batsmen, a walk and an error. Jacob Ference was hit to start the inning and Cullen McAuliffe singled with one out. Justin Meekins singled to load the bases, and Kavi Caster and Scott Cameron were each hit by pitches to force in the tying and go-ahead runs, respectively, The Red Dragons looked like they were going to turn a double play during the next at-bat to keep the deficit at one, but a throwing error on the play kept the inning going and two runs scored.
Salisbury took a 2-0 lead in the first on a Scott Cameron homer and a Cameron Hyder RBI single. Cortland tied the game in the bottom of the inning on singles by Krafft and BeVard, a groundout, and a Varian two-run single. The Sea Gulls answered with two in the second on back-to-back RBI singles by Caster and Cameron and added a run in the third on a two-out wild pitch.
Giordano’s RBI single in the third drew Cortland within two at 5-3, but Salisbury tacked on single runs during the next two innings – Stephen Rice singling in a run in the fourth and Meekins hitting an RBI single in the fifth.
Cortland scored three runs on a rally that started with two outs in the fifth. The Red Dragons loaded the bases on consecutive singles from Giordano, Varian and Daniel Coleman (Saratoga Springs). A balk brought in one run, followed by a Bruno RBI infield single. Bruno then stole second, and a throwing error on the play allowed Coleman to score from third and Cortland trailed 7-6.
In the bottom of the seventh, Varian led off with an infield single and was forced out at second on a Coleman bunt. Bruno followed with a homer to left to give the Red Dragons their first lead. Benji Thalheimer entered in relief at that point and got the last two batters out. He allowed only a two-out walk in the eighth and retired the side in order in the ninth to earn the win.
Bruno finished 3-for-5 with a homer, double and three RBI, Varian was 3-for-5 with two RBI, and Krafft went 2-for-3 with two walks and two runs scored for the Red Dragons. BeVard ended 2-for-4 with a walk and Giordano was 2-for-5 with an RBI. Cortland starter Shane Mugnolo (Howard Beach/Xaverian) allowed six runs, five earned on nine hits with five strikeouts and three walks in four and a third innings. Krasney gave up a run on five hits over the next two and a third frames, Mike Hennessy (Smithtown/Smithtown East) retired the only batter he faced to escape a first-and-second jam in the seventh, and Spencer Weyand (Hornell) gave up one hit and struck out one in a scoreless eighth inning. Bailey Gauthier (Camillus/West Genesee) pitched the ninth and took the loss.
For Salisbury, five players finished with multiple hits. Luke Weddell and McAuliffe each went 3-for-4 with two runs scored, Cameron was 3-for-5 with a homer and three RBI, Caster was 3-for-5 with two RBI and two runs, and Rice finished 2-for-5 with two RBI. Salisbury starter Xavier Marmol allowed six runs, five earned, on 12 hits in four and two thirds innings.