The baseball team clinched a berth in the State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) Tournament for the first time since 2013 after SUNY Oneonta’s 12-2 loss to SUNY Oswego on Friday, April 28.
The Hawks enter the tournament as the No. 4 seed and will take on No. 1 seed Oswego on Saturday, May 6. Oswego captured the top seed in the conference, meaning this is the first time ever the tournament will be hosted anywhere besides Cortland.
The Hawks will have third-year pitcher Ryan Votypka (4-1) on the mound against Lakers third-year pitcher Mitchell Cavanagh (8-0). Cavanagh has won eight of nine appearances and sports a 2.31 ERA for Oswego this season and Votypka owns a 1.67 ERA and has 30 strikeouts in 32 1/3 innings played.
“[Votypka is] our best pitcher and he’s proven it,” Freeman said. “He throws a ton of strikes and throws hard. He keeps his pitch count low and I just don’t want us to get beat with our best guy on the bench. If he doesn’t have it, we’ll make quick moves and try to salvage it.
“Our aim is to have good approach and work to get the bullpen out early. They don’t have a strong bullpen because they rely on offense. We have to come out, shut them down in the first inning and get momentum.”
The Hawks finished out their season dropping two games of a three-game series against The College at Brockport on Friday, April 28 and Saturday, April 29 along with a non-conference game against Lehman College on Tuesday, May 2.
In the first game of the series against Brockport, third-year third baseman Jake Williams went 3-for-4 at the plate on the day in the Hawks 4-2 loss.
New Paltz finished with eight hits as the one through five spots combined to go 7-for-19 with both runs and one RBI.
Hawks third-year co-captain Conor Donachie gave up three runs on eight hits in his start and suffered his second loss in his final start for the regular season.
“We came out and played ok,” Freeman said. “Conor has been really good at embracing the concept of bend not breaking. His mechanics were off a little bit but he battled. They threw a lot of strikes and we just couldn’t get timely hitting.”
The next day both teams played their doubleheader, with the Hawks getting a 4-2 win of their own against Brockport.
Brockport opened the scoring with an RBI single in the first inning and kept the Hawks hitless through the first three innings. First-year outfielder Savino Citriniti broke open the scoring for the Hawks in the fourth inning after driving in two runs with a single up the middle.
The Hawks kept the bats alive, as third-year co-captain Chris Moran and Williams each drove in a run apiece in the seventh inning to give the Hawks a 4-2 lead and the win.
First-year pitcher James Magnuson started the rubber game of the series for New Paltz, pitching three perfect innings to begin the game. The Hawks jumped out to a 5-3 lead off RBIs from Citriniti and third-year catcher Tyler Laco.
The momentum shifted in the seventh inning, as Brockport tallied six runs on six hits with no outs to give them a 9-5 lead. New Paltz was unable to respond as they suffered the loss.
“That game we beat ourselves,” Freeman said. “That’s really the best way to put it.”
Hawks second-year first baseman Justin Ganca has swung the bat well over his last four games, batting .500 (7-for-14) over that span. He did not play the final game of the season against Lehman College, as Freeman rested the starters and gave the non-starters playing time.
Although the Hawks lost the game, it was a high scoring affair with Lehman winning 15-9. Second-year infielder Danny Campbell had a career day, notching a grand slam and driving in five runs total.
However, this did not stop Lehman, as they drove in seven runs in the first inning and scored in five of the games’ nine innings.
“[Lehman] swung the bats well,” Freeman said. “We struck out a lot and the umpire had a big zone both ways. They let the environment dictate their behavior instead of dictating their own environment. They hit our mistakes and hit them hard. Over the past few seasons, they have been one of the best home runs hitting teams and they didn’t have any cheap hits.”
The Hawks (17-17) will now prepare for the SUNYAC Tournament as the No. 4 seed, playing host No. 1 seed Oswego on Saturday, May 6 at 12 p.m. Reaching the postseason for the first time since 2013. The program is in search of their first playoff win since 2001.
“I’ve been telling the guys there’s a difference between hoping and expecting,” Freeman said. “Hoping is a mindset and I want them to expect to win and play a great game. I expect them to win and I expect myself to coach one of the best games.
“I expect us to play for the name on the front of the jersey, not the back. They should be concerned for the person on the left or right of them on the field more than themselves. Lastly, we have to play aggressive, smart baseball. Exploiting mistakes when the opponent makes them is what will get us the win.”
The Hawks took one of three games in their season series against SUNY Oswego this season. The win came on Monday, April 3 when the Hawks took the first game of their three-game series 7-5, which was followed by consecutive losses to the Lakers.
“When they beat us, they acted like they won the World Series,” Freeman said. “We grinded them, we battled and played great baseball.”