The Oswego State baseball team won five of its six games since Saturday and clinched a spot in the SUNYAC playoffs for the first time in over a decade.
The Lakers (18-13, 9-6 SUNYAC) hosted SUNY Fredonia (16-11) at Laker Baseball Field for a three game series. In game one, Oswego State fell behind by one run in the top of the third, but the Lakers quickly came back with three runs of their own, thanks to a double by junior Michael McMullen and a single from senior Alex Jurcynzski. Senior Dan Erne (W, 4-1) pitched seven innings and only allowed the one run in the third.
The Lakers would continue to score in the fifth, seventh and eighth innings to give them seven runs for the game. Junior Pat Brown pitched the final two innings, but made things close when the Blue Devils scored four runs in the top of the ninth. The Lakers were able to hold them off, earning the 7-5 victory on Senior Day.
In the next game of the series, the Lakers scored in the bottom of the first inning. Senior captain Mike Stark scored when McMullen hit a sacrifice fly to left field. The lead would not last long however, as the Blue Devils scored a run in both the second and third innings.
Despite Fredonia’s best efforts, Oswego State junior James McKenna (W, 3-2) held his own, allowing just three runs in the five innings he pitched. McKenna had help in the bottom of the fourth inning when senior Michael Mascari singled, bringing in junior Scott Buniak for a run.
Tyler Baker followed with a double, which drove in two runs. Buniak recorded two hits in four at bats and three RBIs. He also scored twice. The Lakers led 4-3 going into the bottom of the fifth when they pulled away with four runs. Buniak and Baker drove in three of the runs in the inning. The Lakers held on to win 10- 5, giving them a second win on Senior Day.
The third and final game of this three-game series with the Blue Devils lacked the offensive firepower the first two had. Senior captain Jon Stevens (W, 3-2) pitched a complete game, allowing just one unearned run and five hits. He also struck out three batters. Both pitchers recorded complete games in this pitchers’ duel. The Lakers had just eight hits in the victory. Oswego State scored in the second inning after senior Andrew Lazzaro singled, driving in Buniak. Fredonia tied the game up in the fifth inning when an unearned run scored. The Lakers struck right back in the bottom of the sixth with two runs of their own after Mascari doubled. Stevens held off the Blue Devil bats for the win, 3-1. With the win the Lakers clinched a playoff berth. They will play in the SUNYAC tournament on Friday. The last time the Lakers had done so was in 2001.
There was no time for the Lakers to celebrate, as they took on the Cazenovia Wildcats in a doubleheader on Tuesday. The Wildcats (9-18) have had a lackluster season, while the Lakers were hot off their three-game sweep of Fredonia. The day proved to be a freshmen showcase for Oswego State. Freshman Cody LaFlamme (W, 2-0) started on the mound in game one and gave the Lakers five solid innings. LaFlamme allowed just three hits and one run, while striking out six. The bats for the Lakers were alive, batting .455 with 15 hits in 33 at bats.
Going into the game, the team was focused on perfecting their game.
“We were mainly focused on showing up on defense, getting our bats going here and there,” Buniak said.
The Lakers got on the board in the second inning with three runs when junior Forrester Wight, senior Dylan Parmenter and Stark all drove in runs. The runs continued to pour in when Jurcyznski, senior captain Ed Charles, Parmenter and Stark drove in runs. The Lakers led 8-0 at the end of the third, and the runs did not end there. Parmenter drove in another run in the fourth. In the sixth, the Lakers scored six runs. Charles scored on a passed ball while, sophomore John Rauseo and Jurczynski recorded two RBI’s each. Jurczynski later scored in the inning on a passed ball. The Lakers flexed their defensive powers along with their pitching strengths, only allowing three hits with no errors. Freshman Jordan Giller (0-1) also pitched well, recording two hitless and scoreless innings with a walk and a strikeout. The Lakers won 15-1.
After an all around superb performance, the Lakers still had one more game to play against the Wildcats. Freshman Josh Martin (W, 1-0) was looking to extend the freshmen’s success for the day. Martin only pitched 4.1 innings all season, but would pitch almost that much in the game. In four innings, he allowed three hits, three walks and struck out one. The freshman has allowed just one run all season.
In the second inning, the Lakers continued their strong play when junior Dan Karleski singled to right, driving in Mascari for a 1-0 lead. Sophomore Kyle Liner would drive in another run after a sacrifice fly scored Buniak. The fourth inning had the most action, as Baker, Buniak, junior Tim Smith and Giller drove in runs. Buniak laid down a sacrifice bunt, one of many attempts by the team, to bring in a run. The Lakers showed their fielding progress throughout the game, as they shut out the Wildcats. Junior Justin Burns also drove in a run in the sixth inning. The team also showed off its base running skills stealing seven bases. Buniak stole three and Mascari nabbed two, while Baker and Smith recorded one apiece. The Lakers won 8-0.
The Lakers were able to tap into their deep bench in these two games.
“Getting a lot of our depth going helped,” Buniak said. “Guys stepped up when another guy wasn’t getting the job done.”
Buniak had great things to say about the freshmen who stepped up during the doubleheader sweep.
“Both of them are great players,” Buniak said. “We’ve pitched a lot of seniors so far and these freshmen have a lot of talent and were ready to go.”
Oswego State went into its final home game of the regular season against Ithaca on a five-game winning streak. The Bombers (27-6) are ranked 18th in the nation, according to Sunday’s D3baseball.com’s national top 25 poll. The Lakers scored in the first inning on an error by the Bombers. Laker bats could not produce the hits seen in the previous five games, with just six in 30 at bats. Junior Thor Miller (L, 1-2) pitched 6.1 innings allowing five runs, six hits and two walks. He also struck out one. The Bombers scored two runs in the third inning, one in the fifth and four in the seventh. The Lakers lost 7-1.
“Going into it, we knew it was an important game,” Buniak said. “We were riding high and ran into some good pitching we’ll definitely see in the playoffs.”
Buniak thinks some small improvements can be made.
“We need to play a little more small ball here and there,” Buniak said. “You’re not going to get big hits facing pitchers like that.”
While Oswego State failed to win its final home game of the season, the Lakers playoff chances are still alive as they sit at third in the conference behind second-place SUNY New Paltz (16-15, 9-6 SUNYAC) and first-place SUNY Cortland (28-8, 12-3 SUNYAC). The Lakers will travel to SUNY Plattsburgh for a three-game series starting today at 3 p.m., with two games Saturday at noon and 2:30 p.m. The Cardinals (11-20, 4-11 SUNYAC) are in last place in the conference. On Tuesday, the Lakers will travel to Rochester to take on the RIT Tigers. The Lakers will face the Tigers (10-14, 5-11 Liberty League) in a doubleheader. Buniak says the Lakers are mentally all prepared to finish the season and go into the playoffs.
“We’re taking it one game at a time until we get there,” Buniak said.