The College of Staten Island baseball team will go up against Mother Nature and the rest of the CUNYAC lineup, seeking a repeat of the CUNYAC Championship on its home field as part of postseason play.  Winners of the Regular Season Championship on the final weekend of the season, the Dolphins are the No. 1 seed in the six-team foray, and advance into double-elimination play which will kick off at CSI on Thursday at 7:00pm and extends into Saturday with all games played at the CSI Baseball Complex.

The Dolphins will play the winner of No. 4 University of Maine – Presque Isle and No. 5 Lehman College, who play in a single elimination contest immediately before CSI’s game, at 4:00pm, on Thursday.  UMPI is an associate member of the CUNYAC, making its first appearance in the tournament.  The new tournament format extends into Friday, with the Championship slated for Saturday at 4pm.  Obviously, the tournament will be played weather permitting, and despite the dampened conditions expected over the next several days, spirits are high for the Dolphins.  In other postseason opening day action, No. 3 John Jay College will face No. 6 City College of New York will play a single elimination game, with the winner advancing to face No. 2 Baruch College.

“Everyone has been waiting for this all year but it really came into focus last week that this week is upon us and it’s exciting,” said Head Coach Michael Mauro.  “Remembering last year and how it felt to win the championship is giving everyone that motivation again.  There is a little more focus and a bit more quiet determination to be at our best this week.”

CSI has a reason to be upbeat.  After a thrilling championship over Baruch College a year ago, the Dolphins rattled off a 7-1 regular season mark this year within the CUNYAC, part of a 23-13 overall record for the squad this season.  CSI went 12-4 in their final 16 games, and are batting a healthy .314 against CUNYAC teams with a 2.45 ERA against the rest of the conference field.  With 17 CUNYAC titles under their belts, including four in the last six years, Mauro knows the Dolphins will enter with a bullseye placed on their backs.

“We know we will see everyone’s number one pitcher and we are ready for it,” he said.  “We try not to get caught up in the situation and we just take it one game and one pitch at a time,” Mauro explained.  “It sounds cliché, but that’s how it is with us and I think that’s why we’ve done well over the years.”  

CSI is led at the dish by senior trio Nick Delprete, Joe Palmeri and George Kantzian.  Delprete leads all Dolphins with a .390 average, leading the pack with 46 hits and a golden glove at second base, where he boats a .981 field percentage.  Palmeri follows, stroking .358 with 12 doubles and a team-high 35 RBI and 38 runs scored.  Kantzian is at .321, one double away from the school’s all-time single season record with 18.  The Dolphins are fielding a CUNYAC-best .947 as a team, and carry a 4.63 team ERA.  Top starters Christian Capellan and Tom Musso are a combined 9-5 with a 3.40 ERA.

“I think we are deep all around and that’s what gets you through these tournaments,” Mauro said.  “Last year we used seven pitchers in the final game, so you need everyone and we have a great bench.  I think its one advantage we have, that ability to plug a player in at the plate or in the field or to get us out of a jam.  You need it for these tournaments and we intend to use it to our advantage.”

Perhaps more than the on-the-field play, Mauro is high on the team’s championship pedigree to carry them through the next three days.  With seven seniors and seven juniors comprising the roster, the team has plenty of postseason experience, and what’s more is the team’s familiar surroundings.  The Dolphins are 15-6 on their home field this season, a mark that includes a 5-1 mark within the CUNYAC.

“We’ve been good at home all year and we will have Staten Island fans come out and it will certainly give us a little extra incentive,” Mauro acknowledged.  “When you have the kind of experience we have it helps.  We have a group that knows what it can accomplish when it puts its mind to it, and that confidence and composure is what we will look to this week.”

After Thursday evening’s games, CSI will host Friday’s games beginning at 1:00pm.  The two losing teams from Thursday evening’s games will play the early games, with Thursday’s two winning teams playing at 4:00pm.  The loser’s bracket final will be played at 7:00pm on Friday.  The loser’s bracket final winner and the winner’s bracket final winner will then play at 4:00pm on Saturday.  All games are 9-innings long.

“It should be fun,” said Mauro.  “These teams all have familiarity against each other and they always save their best for this weekend.  We will enjoy it and hope to bring another title home.”

The CUNYAC hopes to add a seventh team to the baseball conference beginning at 2017, rendering it eligible for the tournament champion to advance to the NCAA National Championship Tournament via automatic bid pending NCAA approval.

Tickets to all games of the CUNYAC Tournament are FREE but spectators will need to register for tickets upon entry.  Tickets are available via the CUNY Athletic Conference here.