CSI BASEBALL READY FOR TITLE DEFENSE

The College of Staten Island men’s baseball squad will usher in the 2014 CUNYAC Postseason Baseball Tournament tonight, and this year an NCAA National Championship Tournament berth is on the line, making this run one of the most important in team history. The Dolphins are seeded first overall, and will host No. 4 John Jay College tonight at the Tomas D. Morales Baseball Field at 7pm. Admission to the game is free, but if you cannot make the game, CSI SportsNet has you covered with the web radio call at 6:45pm. Click here to access the broadcast.

CSI has been down this road before. The team took their 16th CUNYAC Championship a year ago, and is gunning for their fourth title in the last five years. Never before, however, has the winner of the CUNYAC tourney been afforded an automatic entry into the NCAA Division III National Tournament, so the emphasis on winning the title this year is certainly elevated.

“There is no question that the excitement level of the coaches and the players is on a tremendous high coming in and deservedly so,” said sixth-year head coach Michael Mauro. “We are three wins away from doing something we haven’t done at CSI in over 20 years. This is always the best time of year and now it means more than ever.”

The Dolphins enter as the field’s No. 1 seed after a 9-1 CUNYAC Regular Season. The Dolphins dropped their first conference contest of the season to Stevens Institute of Technology, but then won the second game of that doubleheader and then reeled off eight more wins to finalize the season. For Mauro, the CUNYAC run puts them in a good position, but the double-elimination playoff over the next four days presents an entirely new challenge.

“It’s basically your entire season wrapped up in three or four days and you have to take it one game at a time and not get too ahead of yourself,” he said. “Everyone gets a fresh start and your seeding and your regular season record is just a number. Everybody throws their best nine out there and you play one pitch at a time.”

No matter the outcome tonight, CSI will play again tomorrow at MCU Ballpark in Brooklyn, New York, the host venue for the duration of the tournament. The winner of CSI-John Jay will face the winner of No. 2 Stevens and No. 3 Baruch at 4pm Thursday, while the two losing sides will play at 1pm in the tournament’s first elimination game. The winner that emerges from the loser’s bracket will play the loser of the winner’s bracket game at 7pm for another elimination game. The CUNYAC Final follows that on Saturday at 1pm. The winner’s bracket winner need win only a single game to clinch the championship, while the loser’s bracket winner will have to take two. Obviously, the need to win early in the tournament is key, according to the coach.

“You have to win the first two games to be in the driver’s seat so that is why our entire focus is on tonight,” Mauro noted. “The playoffs are a whole different animal and if you let your guard down you will get run over. We are going to everything in our power to focus on the matter at hand, one game at a time.”

The Dolphins come into the tourney having lost three-straight, but there is little doubt that the team is enjoying the break in the weather. CSI’s hitting and pitching numbers have improved over the last three weeks, as has the team’s fielding percentage. For Mauro, that’s a formula to success. At the dish, the Dolphins are batting a crisp .277, with five players in the starting lineup bating .300 or better. Team ace Chris Falcone boasts a 6-1 record with a 2.28 ERA and should see ample time on the hill this week, as will Mike Fitzpatrick (3-2, 2.32) and Josh Bernstein (2-3, 4.26). CSI’s .962 team fielding percentage has been its calling card, putting them in a tie for first in the conference and 51st nationally (Division III).

“We are night and day right now to who we were even a month ago,” said Mauro, who noted the recent break in weather being a big determining factor to his team’s success. “We are a lot looser and our hitting is finally coming around and it couldn’t have happened at a better time. We are in a good position and now we just have to do what we know we can to win the tournament and move on.”

Admission to all rounds of the tournament are free of charge, however, fans will need tickets for the rounds that take place at MCU Ballpark. Tickets are available via the CUNYAC website here. The 16 CUNYAC Championships for CSI Baseball is the most by any CSI team, putting them in a tie with the Softball team, who won their 16th title last weekend. The Dolphins made the NCAA Division III National Championship twice before in 1990 and 1991 on at-large bids. The Dolphins boast an all-time record of 51-24 in the CUNYAC Tournament, and their matchup with John Jay tonight is the 27th postseason meeting in the team’s history, and CSI boasts an 18-8 overall record against the Bloodhounds in CUNYAC postseason play. The two teams met in the opening round last year as well, with CSI taking a 3-2 win.