After clinching a playoff berth for the first time since 2013, the State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) Tournament was canceled due to saturating weather forecasts.
As the conference’s top seed and by conference operating code, Oswego has been declared the 2017 SUNYAC Champion and will receive the automatic berth in the NCAA Division III Tournament that will take place from Friday, May 26 through Wednesday, May 31.
“This was not an easy decision, but the forecast did not predict an opening to get even one game of the tournament completed,” SUNYAC Commissioner Tom DiCamillo said in a public announcement on SUNYAC’s website following the cancellation of the tournament. “Cancelling a conference championship is the absolute last resort, but this relentless weather forecast left the conference with no other option.”
The Hawks finished their season with a 17-17 overall record in Arlan Freeman’s first season as head coach for New Paltz. They finished fourth in the conference standings just as the preseason coaches poll predicted.
The team finished with an 8-10 record in conference play highlighted with wins over top-seeded SUNY Oswego and The College at Brockport.
Oswego captured the top seed in the conference, meaning this would have been the first time ever the tournament would have been hosted anywhere besides Cortland. The Hawks were scheduled to play them in the opening round of the tournament.
The tournament could not be rescheduled due to the fact that any future dates backed into the academic calendar. The dates would interfere with final exams and graduation for SUNY Cortland, Brockport and Oswego.
The cancellation of the tournament was a tough decision to make, and according to Freeman, it gives team motivation heading into the 2018 season.
“It definitely was tough for me to get over,” he said. “We talk as a department with a growth mindset. I think it’s really hard to try and pull a positive out of every situation. I talked to the players, coaches and staff and we all agreed that it was unfortunate, but it gives us a driving force going forward.
“I felt really bad for the seniors who worked hard for four years. Our goal was to get an opportunity to compete for the conference championship and we achieved that goal. We talked a lot about adversity and I think our team exemplified true character. They didn’t make excuses and they didn’t complain.”
Looking ahead to next season, the Hawks will keep the majority of their current roster as only three players will be graduating. Some of their top conference opponents such as Brockport will graduate as many as 12 players.
Oswego will lose 11 players, including one of their core pitchers, Tim Cronin, who went an unprecedented 9-0 this season. With their success in recent years, Freeman believes the teams will not be impacted from the change in team dynamic.
“I know their coaching staffs will just revamp their team,” Freeman said. “Year in and year out, SUNYAC is one of the greatest in the country conference-wise.”
Next season will feature a slate with at least 40 games, according to Freeman. The team will look to clinch their second consecutive postseason berth.
“It was unfortunate that it came down to the fact that we didn’t get a chance to compete for it,” Freeman said. “I felt like we were playing our best baseball. I’m proud of the guys. I expect the team to be much better next year and expect the players to work hard over the offseason and in the summer to be able to host the conference trophy and be proud of what we built.”