After a strong showing this season, the baseball team was unable to clinch a playoff berth after losing their final three State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) games to The College at Brockport.
Though it was not the finish many expected, there is a lot of optimism for the team heading into next season. With a team that had 17 underclassmen, the Hawks were able to reach the 20-win plateau for the first time since 2011 and a series win against top-seeded Cortland for the first time in program history.
In the first game against Brockport on Friday, April 29, the Hawks were limited to six hits after losing by a score of 6-0. The first five innings of the game were scoreless, but the Golden Eagles started to drive in runs in the last half of the game.
Brockport fourth-year infielder Brett Sanders came home on a wild pitch in the top half of the sixth inning to make it a 1-0 game. Shortly after, fourth-year infielder Wesley Burghardt drove in another run after hitting a single up the middle. Another run was scored in the eighth and the Golden Eagles sealed the win after adding three more in the ninth.
In addition to the shutout in the first game of the series, Hawks second-year right fielder Nick DePietro suffered a broken thumb sliding into third base and was unable to play the second game.
Despite the injury, Hawks head coach Matt Righter said the team found a way to get DePietro to play the third game. He was successful on one of two bunts, got a base hit and walked, all playing left-handed.
“[DePietro] is a right-handed hitter so before game three, we practiced hitting left-handed,” Righter said. “Not only did he play, he got two bunts down, got a base hit left-handed and walked left-handed. It’s something unheard of.”
This adds another moment to DePietro’s first season as a Hawk, where he hit .342 with 19 RBI. He also recently hit a walk-off home run against Elmira College on Saturday, April 23.
Other notable Hawk performers from this season include second-year second baseman Anthony Pantano, second-year center fielder Jake Williams and first-year shortstop Ryan Frost.
Pantano hit .339 for the season with two home runs and 17 RBI, which is 14 more than last season’s total. Williams batted .307 with 18 RBI, while Frost led the conference with 13 doubles.
Hawks fourth-year co-captain Brett Wisner is one of many that are expecting a lot out of next year’s team, and said that he may potentially return next year despite graduating.
“This team is headed in the right direction,” Wisner said. “I will actually be attending graduate school here and since I did not play my freshman year, I could potentially come back. I expect big things from the team next year whether I play or not.”
In the next two games of the series against Brockport in a doubleheader the following day, the Hawks were held scoreless in the first game on the day after losing 9-0 and suffered a 4-2 extra-innings loss in the nightcap. This loss eliminated the Hawks from playoff contention.
In game two, Brockport only needed their five-run third inning to defeat the Hawks.
Burghardt and fourth-year outfielder Josh Martin hit a pair of two-run home runs in the third for the Golden Eagles. Later in the inning, Brockport added to their lead after a balk. Brockport scored one run in the fifth and two more runs in the seventh to win 9-0.
The third game of the weekend saw strong pitching and defense by both teams.
Pantano broke open the scoring with an RBI single in the third inning. Brockport responded in the fifth after scoring on a groundout. The Hawks responded with another run in the home half of the inning before Golden Eagles fourth-year infielder Chris Davis tied the game at two after a solo home run in the sixth.
There was no scoring until six innings later, as both teams headed to extras. Davis came up clutch for Brockport again in the 12th inning — hitting a two-run double with two outs. The Golden Eagles retired the home half of the inning to prevent the Hawks from making the playoffs.
The Hawks finished their season with an overall record of 20-16-2 and 8-10 conference tally.
New Paltz finished fifth place in the SUNYAC where only the top four teams make the SUNYAC Tournament.
Despite the disappointing finish, Righter said there is still plenty of room for player development and New Paltz may eventually be up in the standings with top-seeded teams like SUNY Cortland and SUNY Oswego.
“I’m proud of our guys and I’m proud of our team,” Righter said. “It’s disappointing to lose the way we did. Give these guys another year and put them in the same situations we were in, we would get the job done. But I think everyone can agree that these next two years are going to be pretty darn good.”