With all the accolades imaginable for a collegiate baseball player and every school record already accomplished or well in reach, senior third baseman Eric Hamilton has put together an all-time Laker career as the end of it nears.
“The best,” said head coach Scott Landers when asked where Hamilton ranks as a player he coached at Oswego State. “He proves it every day on the field. He’s never been overmatched when he was a freshman or a sophomore.”
Hamilton, a graduate out of Cicero-North Syracuse High School, came to Oswego State as the younger brother of then Laker, Brian Hamilton.
“I just came in as a freshman hoping to make an impact right away,” Hamilton said. “Coach Landers recruited me all throughout high school and I couldn’t thank him enough for that, so I just wanted to come here and make a stand for him and do what I can to help this program win.”
It was clear early on that Hamilton would be a great player in the Laker baseball program, the questions would be how great would he be and how great the team would be.
Freshman year Hamilton, for the most part, found himself in the starting mix. His power with the bat was not quite there, but his consistent hitting and defense was good enough for All-SUNYAC First Team honors with a .333 batting average in 2014.
“Obviously when he came as a freshman he was above and just better than everybody else, especially freshmen on other teams and freshmen that were already here,” senior pitcher Tim Cronin said. “It’s been fun watching him progress over the four years.”
As Hamilton was improving, the Oswego State Lakers baseball team was improving alongside him, making a run in the SUNYAC playoffs each year, after just recently being a one-win program in conference play in 2011.
In Hamilton’s sophomore season, already an All-SUNYAC award winner, he had one of his biggest improvements from a statistical standpoint, from one year to the next.
In 40 games played, Hamilton drove in 39 RBI, 26 more than he did the previous season. He also increased his hit total from 30 base hits to 57 and a .345 batting average on the season. His .957 fielding percentage also earned him a Gold Glove award at third base for the ABCA/Rawlings New York Region.
“Experience as an underclassman, getting majority of playing time as a freshman and really evolving towards the end of the year,” Hamilton said. “Working my way into a starting role sophomore to senior year, it’s just been huge. It all comes with playing experience and not being overmatched by anyone else knowing you can get the job done whenever you are called for.”
In 2015, the Lakers advanced to the SUNYAC Championship after defeating the College at Brockport in an elimination game 11-5, where Hamilton hit a two-run homer in the third inning to put the Lakers up 3-1.
Coming up short to SUNY Cortland for the SUNYAC title, Hamilton and the Lakers still earned themselves a bid in the NCAA Div. III Tournament for the program’s first time since 1996.
The Lakers were bounced after early losses to Amherst and Oblein College, despite Hamilton going 4-10 with an RBI in those contests combined. With two impressive seasons under his belt, the valuable experience gained was bound to carry over into the second half of his collegiate career.
2016 was the year of highest expectations from Hamilton himself and those who surround him. He knew his game was solid, but felt there was a higher level to reach for himself and the team.
“I really just took my work ethic to a next level, really tried to take no days off in the weight room or swinging,” Hamilton said. “Just a couple adjustments to my swing to hit more gaps, hit more balls over the fence, using my strength staying short to the ball, and doing whatever I can to help the team win.”
Hamilton improved from good to even better than the season before, but this season was just that much better from him in every way possible.
In only the fifth game of the year, against then No. 7 Salisbury University, Hamilton hit his first two home runs of the season for his first career multi-home run game as a Laker in a 15-6 victory.
The very next day in a doubleheader against Wesley University, he would hit three more home runs, the first two coming in a 13-9 victory in game 1, and the third coming in game 2 for a 10-5 victory.
The home run tear would only continue from there for Hamilton, as he would hit eight more that season to break a Laker’s individual season record and was the seventh most in the country that season amongst Div. III.
As for the Lakers, they would go on a 15-game winning streak in the middle of the season behind Hamilton’s stellar season, which was getting professional baseball scouts attention as the Lakers were ranked No. 4 in the Div. III polls.
The Lakers lost to SUNY Cortland again in the regular season and SUNYAC Championship, but made it to the second round of the NCAA Div. III Tournament until they were eliminated by Tufts University.
Hamilton finished his historic season with a .399 batting average and was highly decorated by being named to the following awards: All-SUNYAC First Team, SUNYAC Player of the Year, First Team All-New York Region, Player of the Year in D3baseball.com and ABCA/Rawlings New York Region, D3baseball.com Second team All-American and ABCA/Rawlings Third Team All-American.
It was an individual season you could not ask too much more of, but there were further goals Hamilton and the Lakers sought, winning a SUNYAC Championship and beyond.
Prior to the start of Hamilton’s senior season, he was named to D3baseball.com Preseason First Team All-American. So far this season he is already broken all-time Laker records in at-bats (530), hits (195), and doubles (37).
He is currently fourth in runs scored (110), second in runs-batted-in (133), third in home runs (19), and 10th in batting average (.368).
The Lakers, led by Hamilton, are in prime position once again to make a championship run in the SUNYAC with SUNY Cortland in their headlights.
“Well [SUNY Cortland] has always been known as the top team and just going into that weekend it’s a whole other mindset,” Hamilton said. “We’re right there neck and neck with them, there’s no doubt about that, if we bring our A-game this weekend we can win the series and hopefully host SUNYAC’s.”
Oswego State is 3-10 against SUNY Cortland in the Hamilton era, including a 1-3 record in the SUNYAC Championship playoffs.
To go with all the records Hamilton seeks to reach, defeating the team they finished runner-ups to the previous two seasons will be next on his list.