Monday, May 20, 2024

Cards stay in playoff race

By Liam Sample

In a series that defined the fate of their season, the Plattsburgh baseball team kept their playoff hopes alive, taking two out of three games against the SUNY Oneonta Red Dragons April 29 and 30 at Chip Cummings Field.

Coming into the weekend, three teams were in contention for the final SUNYAC playoff spot: New Paltz, Plattsburgh and Oneonta. By winning the series, the Cardinals knocked the Red Dragons out of the race.

Oneonta falls to a 5-13 conference record as Plattsburgh improves to 6-9, which is an identical conference record as New Paltz.

Many big performances came from all over the Cardinals’ lineup during the weekend, including during the first game April 29, where senior pitcher Peter Gregory stepped up for his team.

“The weekend was a hard fought series as our backs were against the wall,”  Gregory Said. “ I needed to pitch the best I could so we started the series on the right foot. The game was super to me as we need to win as many games as possible to make a playoff push.”

Gregory went the distance, throwing seven and a third innings, while only allowing a stellar one run on seven hits with six strikeouts. This effort was his season high in innings and came when the team needed it most. 

“What worked well was the pitching sequence coming from the catcher [senior] Jake Hutton, who I trust a lot and he does call a great game,”  Gregory said. “The curveball was the best it has felt in a while and I think that pitch was a key to success.” 

Pitching wasn’t the only thing working for Plattsburgh. The offense was potent and scored eleven runs. This included a big late game effort, where the team scored four runs in the seventh inning and two in the eighth. 

Seven of the nine Cardinal hitters recorded a run batted in, including two from both Hutton and graduate student first baseman Steve Messerschmitt.

“Game one was an all around team win. Gregory dominated on the mound after having only a few games rest,” said junior Kaden Kowalowski. “Our bats were hot all game.”

Plattsburgh put up a statement win in this first game, with the final score being 11-1. The Red Dragons fought back in the second game of the series, which was one half of a doubleheader April 30. 

The second game was defined by one inning: the fourth. Oneonta scored eight runs in the inning on only eight hits. Plattsburgh never found a way to recover from the opposing offensive outburst. 

Oneonta junior Sean Liquori went 4-4 with two runs batted in, he is second on the team in average amongst qualifying hitters. On the other side of the ball, sophomore Micheal Sadowski threw seven innings and only allowed two runs for the Red Dragons.

Junior Connor Gonzalski, who has been one of the Cardinals’ hottest hitters,  stayed on pace in this game, tallying three of the team’s seven hits. Despite his team falling 10-2 in this game, he kept his momentum going into the final game of the series. 

“We didn’t have the energy from the start and that really set the tone for the rest of the game,” said Gonzalski. “By the time we got [the energy], it was already too late and they had a large lead.”

Not wanting to see their playoff hopes dwindle, Plattsburgh got back on track for game three. After being tied at one through three innings, the Cardinals offense exploded in the fourth. Junior outfielder Mike Rasquin started the rally with a single that scored Kowalowski to gain the lead.

“Game three we bounced back and got a lot of help from our pitcher,”  Kowalowski said. “It was a do or die game and everyone knew that and played their hearts out.” 

Plattsburgh got another big hit on the next at bat, where sophomore infielder Alex Kornblau singled to score another, which ended up being the game winning run. Kornblau leads qualifying hitters on the team in average and hits. 

The Cardinals would go on to score three more runs in the inning, creating a 6-1 lead. From there, the pitching locked it down. Senior Sean Malamud pitched a complete, nine inning game and allowed just two runs. Malamud has been a workhorse for the team all season, as he leads the pitching staff in innings with 50.1 This is the first complete game by a Plattsburgh pitcher since 2019 and was another big performance by a starter on the weekend. 

“We started off with energy the whole game after what happened to us during the second game,”  Gonzalski said. Gonzalski went 2-4 with a run batted in the series finale. 

“We worked as a whole through all nine innings and picked each other up with clutch hits and plays.” Gonzalski said.  It was a great game that we needed in order to keep our playoff hopes alive.”

They finished with a 9-2 win to make the last week of the season pivotal. After picking up two, non-conference wins at SUNY Canton May 1, the Cardinals weekend three game series against The SUNY Brockport Golden Eagles on May 6 and 7 will decide if they play in the playoffs.

Plattsburgh lost their first six conference games of the season and have battled uphill to this point. They have yet to play Brockport this season, who have a 11-4 conference record and are 29-6 overall. The other determining factor for the playoffs is New Paltz. They play Cortland this weekend, which is the top team in the conference. 

The Cardinals have not appeared in the SUNYAC Playoffs since 2012. Strong play against one of the top teams in the conference is required to break the decade long playoff drought.

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