The College of Staten Island men’s baseball squad captured its 15th CUNYAC Postseason Championship tonight, winning a thrilling, 1-0, 10-inning affair against No. 2 seeded Baruch College in the one-game, winner-take-all Final held at MCU Ballpark in Brooklyn, New York. The top-seeded Dolphins (23-16) were powered by a complete-game, three-hit shutout performance from sophomore Richard Anderson, who dueled Baruch’s (16-19) Jesus Izarra in one of the CUNY’s finest finals in the 29-year history of the tournament.
Under the lights and through whipping winds, the Dolphins and Bearcats battled through quick innings where both starting pitchers breezed through the frames, at times using sound defense to break clear of jams.
The Dolphins set their lead-off batter on base in the four straight frames to start the game against Izarra, but each time the Bearcats responded, including a pair of double plays turned in the first and fourth innings, helping keep the Dolphins off of the scoreboard. Meanwhile, a masterful Anderson was controlling the powerful Baruch lineup, allowing a lone hit through the first five stanzas, as CSI also overcame a pair of infield errors. In the second inning Alvin Mata was caught in a rundown between third base and home plate, trying to leg out an extra base off of a Henry Roman error, and later, in the game’s eighth frame, Roman roped in a line drive to end a modest threat after flubbing a routine ground ball one batter earlier.
CSI appeared to seize momentum during the regulation innings as well, seemingly destined to finally touch Izarra, who earlier in the season shut the Dolphins out in a seven-inning, 1-0, complete game. The fifth inning marked a huge moment in the game. With two outs, CSI’s Dan Lynch legged out a pair of stolen bases to reach third base, and when an Izarra pitch went wild, Lynch bolted for home, seemingly falling under a would-be tag by Izarra at the plate that would have given CSI the lead. Lynch was ruled out on the play, ending the inning, and Lynch was tossed from the game for arguing the call.
“It’s a lot easier now to take that call considering the final outcome, but we felt he was definitely safe,” said CSI skipper Michael Mauro, who was coaching third base at the time. “It was a crucial play and it just didn’t work out our way. I’m glad we fought through it.”
Lynch’s dismissal saw freshman James Lewis, making only his fifth start of the season, move over to centerfield from left field, as Ray Gise entered in place of Lynch to play left field.
“We started James for defense,” said Mauro. “On a night like this with the wind playing the role it did, we needed his defense in the outfield. We never thought we would get the offense we did out of him.”
Indeed, Lewis, who came into the game batting 4-of-27 (.148), posted only one of two multi-hit games for the Dolphins, frustrating Izarra, who later unintentionally plunked Lewis in the ninth inning, to ignite another rally. With Roman already having earned on base, the pair was then moved over to second and third base via Gise’s sac bunt. With one out registered, however, Izarra again conjured up the magic, getting Bryan Moreno to offer at his first pitch to ground harmlessly to shortstop with no threat to advance Roman. Up next stepped Mark Glennerster, who hopped on a breaking pitch and stroked a liner to left-centerfield. As well as the ball was hit, Baruch’s Mata raced in from centerfield and covered an amazing amount of ground to catch the liner extended and on the run, ending another inning, leaving the Dolphins, who had left 14 runners on base in the game, grasping for answers.
With the score still knotted at 0-0, the game moved into the extra frame. With eyes turned back to Anderson, the sophomore was putting more touch on CSI’s best pitching performance of the season. After registering two quick outs, Anderson yielded a seeing-eye single through the right side to Anthony Melendez, and Melendez promptly stole second base. Facing Marcus Mejia next, Anderson laced a low fastball passed the Baruch designated hitter that Mejia swung through for the final out, ending the Bearcats threat.
“This was exactly the game we envisioned him having,” Mauro said about Anderson’s three-hit shutout through 10 innings. “We needed him to throw a gem and we knew he could do it. As great as he was we are not surprised. He’s been valuable for us all year long.”
Mauro did contend, however, that the team needed to bail out its warrior on the mound with a strong tenth inning, and the Dolphins answered the call.
With one out, CSI’s Pat Gale laced a screaming line drive passed Anthony Melendez, who was hit with an error when the ball went off of his glove on the misplay. With Gale at first, freshman Joey Falcone was intentionally walked for the second straight at-bat, and one batter later, Sal Todaro was ever-patient, earning a seven-pitch walk of his own to load the bases for Roman. The junior hopped on Izarra’s first pitch, roping a lazy fly ball to left field. Perhaps on a normal night, the fly ball would have warranted a chance for Gale to come home via a sac fly, but the swirling winds brought the ball too far in for Gale to have a play, so the senior stayed put. Down to their last chance of the inning, up stepped Lewis again. The right-hand hitting frosh saw a hanging inside pitch delivered by Izarra, and laced a towering shot to left field, sailing over the head of Yuksecol in left field for a basehit. The base hit scored Gale for CSI’s walk-off win, and no sooner did Lewis round first then he was mugged by his teammates as the evening’s offensive hero.
“I can’t even explain how good it feels because every inning was so stressful, and fun, and just amazing,” commented an emotional Mauro after the game. “It was one of the most exciting games I have ever been a part of, and for James to come up and get that hit, I am so happy for him.”
The timely hit, however, did not erase the true story of the evening, which was Anderson’s masterful pitching performance, and the righty pitcher was the unanimous choice for Tournament Most Valuable Player honors.
“He was excellent,” said Mauro. “We knew if he kept the ball down and got into a rhythm he was going to have a good night. He was dynamite. He is going to be a phenomenal pitcher for this team for years to come.”
Mauro was also quick to cite his opponent, Baruch hurler Izarra, who turned out to be the hard luck loser, allowing nine hits and the lone unearned run to stymie the Dolphins.
“I have to give him credit,” Mauro said. “That’s the second time he shut us down and he gutted it out the whole way. It could have gone either way and we might still be playing if it were up to these two pitchers. I’m just happy we scored first and when we did.”
For the Dolphins, the win marks the 15th title in the CUNYAC’s 29 years of postseason championship contention. It also marks the second straight year the Dolphins earned the win over Baruch in the Final. It was only the second extra-inning Final in CUNYAC history (CSI beat Lehman College, 5-4, in 2000 in 14 innings), and it was the lowest scoring title game in history.
“It’s always sweet,” said Mauro of his second championship at CSI. “The way that we won makes it sweeter but our goal is to be here and to win this game every year. We did it tonight.”
For CSI the CUNYAC Postseason is over but the season itself is not. CSI has a non-conference single home game at 6pm tomorrow evening against Stevens Tech and this weekend will travel to Maryland to face Salisbury University for a doubleheader. On Monday, May 9, the draw for the ECAC Metro NY/NJ Postseason Championship Tournament will be announced, and CSI is hoping to be in the mix for that as well.