Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Cards nab first conference victory in walk-off fashion

The Plattsburgh State baseball team started its week with an 8-2 victory on the road against SUNY Canton on Monday right after being swept at home by Cortland. Following their bounce-back performance, the Cardinals took on the New Paltz Hawks in a midweek series at home.

Although the Cards lost both games on Tuesday against the Hawks by a score of 3-1 and 1-0, PSUC salvaged the final game of the series with a walk-off 2-run single in the bottom of the 9th inning by senior outfielder T.J. Montalbano.

“We had a lot of tension coming into this game,” Montalbano said. “I’ve been in situations of hitting a potential game-winner before where I’ve choked. I shortened up my swing and knew I had to put it in play with two strikes and make something happen, and I did.”

Down to their final out, with the tying runner only 90-feet away and the winning run at second base, Montalbano turned on the inside pitch and drove it into left-center field to score sophomore outfielder Chris Robertson from third and freshman second baseman Kentaro Mori from second. It was the first game-winning hit for Montalbano in his career.

“Before the game, I told everybody to just relax and play baseball like we always do,” Montalbano said. “I had a feeling we were going to win this game. Today was a great win.”

It was back-and-forth the whole game, until finally the Cards sent up their leader on the field up to bat, which head coach Kris Doorey felt confident about with the game being on the line.

“He’s a guy that can slow the moment down, he doesn’t get so excited that the moment overwhelms him,” Doorey said. “It was a great job by T.J. to come through with the big hit, there is nobody different that I would want up there than him, so I’m glad for him.”

Mori, who scored the game-winning run, had only just been inserted into the game moments before as a pinch-runner for Patrick Bryant, who drew a walk as a pinch-hitter.

“Well, I was warming up to pitch in the top of the inning, so I was totally ready to go into the game,” Mori said. “When coach asked me to run, I was ready for it.”

With two outs, Mori knew he was running on the swing of the bat in order to give him the best chance to score, which it did.

“I didn’t even see coach Burns (assistant coach/third base coach) rounding third,” Mori said. “I knew I would score on a single.”

Now holding an overall record of 7-17, PSUC has already surpassed last year’s win total of six with its win against New Paltz Wednesday, which was also its first conference victory of the year (1-11).

“That first (conference) win is always the toughest one,” Doorey said. “Obviously, it took a little longer than we thought, but I’m really proud of how these guys have been competing.”

The Cards will now start a stretch of six games on the road by squaring off against conference opponents SUNY Oneonta this weekend. PSUC takes the field Friday at 3 p.m., then will gear up for a doubleheader Saturday, with games at 12 noon and 3 p.m.

“We just keep battling and battling, we’ve lost some real close games up to this point,” Doorey said. “We’re trying to keep grinding it out and getting better and better.”

Email Ezra Kachaturian at sports@cardinalpointsonline.com

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