Sunday, May 19, 2024

Cards face uphill battle

Mordecki sizes up an Oneonta batter at Chip Cummings Field before the pitch April 19.

 

 

By Justin Rushia

For the second time in three years, the Plattsburgh State Cardinals baseball team is back in the SUNYAC playoffs. As the fourth seed, the underdog Cardinals’ first step in their championship aspirations ended in a 6-12 loss to the top-seeded Cortland Red Dragons. Plattsburgh is now on the brink of elimination and will have to fight its way through the loser’s bracket. 

“If any of our teams had a chance to win, I think this would be the one to do it,” junior pitcher Kolby Mordecki said. 

 

CORTLAND 

Plattsburgh started Mordecki on the mound against Cortland. So far this season, the righty has posted a 5.05 ERA with a 4-4 win-loss record. Mordecki is also a two-time SUNYAC Pitcher of the Week. 

“I’m excited and nervous all at the same time,” Mordecki said. 

The Red Dragons struck first, scoring an unearned run in the bottom of the second. 

With momentum on its side going into the third, Cortland again held Plattsburgh to zero runs and scored two of its own to round.

Plattsburgh took out Mordecki in favor of Nick Goldberg in the top of the fourth inning after the Red Dragons scored four more runs. Mordekcki ended the day with five earned runs. Goldberg let up one more run to Cortland, giving the Reg Dragons an 8-0 advantage going into the fifth.

The Red Dragons stayed hot in the fifth and scored three more unanswered runs bringing the score to 11-0.

The Cardinals ended the scoring drought when the single-season home-run record holder Alex Kornblau did what he does best and hit a two-run blast over the right field wall. Plattsburgh held Cortland to zero runs and ended the inning with a nine-run deficit. 

Plattsburgh didn’t go down without a fight, scoring four more runs. Andrew Veit highlighted the inning by hitting a two-run homer to center field. The Cardinal defense again held Cortland to zero runs, cutting the Red Dragon’s advantage to five. 

Plattsburgh’s comeback effort ended in the eighth after the team went scoreless and allowed one final Red Dragon run, bringing the game to its final score of 6-12.

Plattsburgh will have an uphill battle, needing to climb its way back through a losers bracket. The Cardinals will take on Oswego in a win or go home contest on Friday, May 10.

 

LOOKING AHEAD

Plattsburgh State is enjoying one of its strongest seasons in program history, finishing with a 24-14 regular season record and a 10-8 record in conference play. The win total is the best in recent memory and the team’s highest win total since the 2010 season, when Plattsburgh won 30 games. Plattsburgh’s 10 conference wins tied the program record set in 2006.

The SUNYAC has been highly competitive this season. Leading up to the SUNYAC tournament, four conference teams landed within the top seven of the NCAA Division III Region Three power rankings: Plattsburgh ranked seventh, Oswego ranked fourth, New Paltz ranked third and Cortland ranked first. 

While the Red Dragons are formidable, they are not unbeatable. Cortland finished with a conference record of 16-2, their two losses coming from Oswego and New Paltz.

Earlier in the season, Plattsburgh took a game from both Oswego and New Paltz in the regular season and hoped they could do the same to Cortland. 

“We are feeling as confident as ever,” said Conner Gonzalski, graduate student outfielder.

The Cardinals have historically struggled with the Red Dragons, having an all-time record of 5-80 in the matchup. The last time Plattsburgh beat Cortland was in the final game of its series in 2012, which the Cardinals won 2-0. Plattsburgh is on a 36-game losing streak against the Red Dragons.

In this season’s series between Plattsburgh and Cortland, the Red Dragons won all three games with a combined run margin of 21-4. 

Coming into the matchup, the Cardinals’ offense ranked fourth in the SUNYAC in runs, hits, batting average, home runs and slugging percentage. 

One thing Plattsburgh has excelled at this season is its discipline at the plate. The Cardinals have the fewest strikeouts and the most walks in the SUNYAC. 

Plattsburgh’s patience at the dish was a key game plan strategy going into the tournament. If the Cardinals can have disciplined at-bats, they can raise the pitch count of opposing starting pitchers. If Plattsburgh worked the pitch count early on in the game, opponents would be forced to go to their bullpen. When facing high level competition, every advantage counts.

“This week, we’ve talked a lot about execution. For example, laying down bunts, executing hits and runs and making all of the routine plays on defense,” Gonzalski said. 

Multiple hitters have come up big for Plattsburgh this season. One of the most notable ones is Kornblau, who broke the single-season home run record with eight. Kornblau continued his record-breaking campaign, now holding the single-season record for runs and total bases, breaking the previous marks of 48 and 86. 

Plattsburgh will play its first SUNYAC elimination game against the second-seeded Oswego Lakers on April 10.

“We left Cortland with a little chip on our shoulder. I think that will work in our favor this weekend,” Assistant Coach Jeff Pluta said. 

 

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