By Collin Bolebruch
Plattsburgh Cardinals softball finished the 2023 season with its best record since 2017, standing at 22-11. The Cards went 11-7 in SUNYAC play and made the conference playoffs for the second year in a row. Head Coach Sam Van Dorn, in her third season, led the team to big wins over strong conference opponents, including sweeps of the Oneonta Red Dragons (18-21-1, SUNYAC 10-8) and the Cortland Red Dragons (24-11, SUNYAC 14-4).
Plattsburgh made the postseason as a fifth seed, slated to face Cortland in the first round of a double elimination tournament in New Paltz, a neutral site, Thursday, May 11. The Cards lost to Cortland 2-4 in the first game. With a loss, Plattsburgh faced Oneonta on the same day in an attempt to keep its head above the water. The Cardinals lost 2-3. Despite the 0-2 postseason outing, the 2023 campaign was an improvement for Plattsburgh.
In the weekend leading up to the playoffs, Plattsburgh was fighting for favorable seeding, having already secured a postseason berth. The Cardinals played away doubleheaders on consecutive days. The Cards played the now third-seeded Geneseo Knights (22-14-1, SUNYAC 12-6) last Friday, May 5 and the team with the worst record in the conference, the Brockport Golden Eagles (5-27, SUNYAC 2-16) last Saturday, May 6. Plattsburgh lost both games to the Knights, 0-2 and 1-5, but swept the Eagles 6-2 and 12-2.
Geneseo was going to be a difficult opponent, whether or not the pressure of playoffs was a factor. The Knights have had a winning record in every season over the past decade and have won three SUNYAC titles in the last five seasons.
Plattsburgh has struggled against top teams this season, with a 4-6 record against playoff teams. Players knew their issue in the Geneseo series was the team’s hitting. Teams can’t win softball games with one run across two games.
Pitcher and infielder Julia Golino provided the only score of the series, in the second game, when catcher and infielder Rebecca Diller singled down 0-3 in the fifth inning. In the same game, Golino earned a rare loss, just her second of the season.
The two-game sweep lowered Plattsburgh’s chances of taking a top-three seed in a field of six. The losses put the Cards below the Knights and the four-seeded Buffalo State Bengals (23-14, SUNYAC 12-6). Now locked into the fifth seed, Plattsburgh needed the Brockport wins for momentum. The Cardinals took them both in a big way.
“Our hitting came alive. We worked on being patient at the plate and waiting for our pitch,” Golino wrote in a text. “Hitting is contagious and once one person hits, we all start to hit.”
The Cards pitched phenomenally against the Eagles. Between Golino, Kristina Maggiacomo and Morgan Ormerod, the Cardinals threw 16 strikeouts and earned just three runs. Big hitting performances came from Golino and outfielder Kristen Langdon, who had five and three runs batted in, respectively.
The team needed to keep strong batting up to make headway in the playoffs. Maggiacomo emphasized “timely hitting.” The wins instilled a drive in the team headed into the first round of postseason games.
“I think we just need to be confident in ourselves and know how good of a team we are,” infielder Claire Palmer said. “We need to take it game-by-game, play-by-play, inning-by-inning.”
The Cards entered the first round against a familiar opponent. Plattsburgh had history on its side against second-seeded Cortland after a dominant sweep earlier this season. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, the momentum didn’t translate into a win.
Maggiacomo started in the circle, her 16th start of the season. On the season, Maggiacomo led Cardinal pitchers in ERA with 2.83, strikeouts with 110 and innings pitched with 106.1.
Cortland struck first, scoring a run in the first inning. A Golino double in the third inning brought in two runners, taking the only Plattsburgh lead of the game at 2-1. The Red Dragons scored twice in the fifth to take a 3-2 lead, which the Cardinals never responded to.
Golino had two hits and was just one of two Cards to record one. Through six innings, Maggiacomo struck out five Red Dragons and earned only three of the four runs.
The loss didn’t eliminate Plattsburgh from the playoffs. In the structure of the tournament, the Cardinals would have to face the loser between Oneonta and the New Paltz Hawks (30-11, SUNYAC 16-2). Oneonta lost, setting up the Cards and Dragons for an afternoon sudden death game.
Golino earned the start this game, as she typically fills in for Maggiacomo in the second game of a series. Golino has been money all year, winning 10 of 13 games she’s started.
The Cardinals scored first, when Maggiacomo hit a sacrifice fly to the center fielder, bringing Langdon home. At the top of the fifth inning, Oneonta hit a double to bring in two scores, taking a lead at 2-1. Maggiacomo, in the same inning, hit a single, allowing Langdon to score again. The game went to an eighth inning, but ended when an Oneonta run went unanswered.
The season didn’t end the way Plattsburgh wanted it to, but it has a lot to look back and be proud of. In the face of COVID-19 and in Van Dorn’s third season, the team is on the right track. Though seniors like Golino, Maggiacomo and Langdon are saying goodbye, the team is deep enough to be back again next season.