AUBURNDALE, Fla. – The Endicott baseball team opened their 2015 season with a pair of one-run losses to the third-ranked Cortland State Red Dragons (9-0) at the RussMatt Central Florida Invitational on Sunday afternoon as the Gulls suffered a bottom of the seventh walk-off loss in game one and in game two, nearly erased a five-run deficit which would have forced extra innings.
Endicott's second day of competition in Central Florida continues on Monday with a doubleheader against NESCAC foe Bowdoin back in Auburndale's Lake Myrtle Complex.
Game One: #3 Cortland State 2, Endicott 1
The first game of Sunday's doubleheader with Cortland State featured a pitching matchup between the defending CCC Pitcher of the Year from Endicott, junior righty JJ Branch (Milford, Mass.), and Cortland's All-American senior left-hander Brandon McClain (Coram, N.Y.). Both hurlers went six scoreless innings until the top of the seventh when a sacrifice fly by Gulls junior shortstop Cody Hall (Rutland, Mass.) brought home pinch-runner Michael DeDonato (Chelmsford, Mass.) to put Endicott ahead 1-0.
In the top of the seventh, junior first baseman Nicholas De Lotto (Southbury, Conn.) led off the inning with a single right before DeDonato relieved him on the base paths. Junior outfielder Corbin Hyde (Lewiston, Maine) laid down a bunt that moved along DeDonato and was safe with a single after hustling down the first base line. A sacrifice bunt down the third base line by junior catcher Josh Drew (Intervale, N.H.) set the table for Hall's sacrifice fly to center.
Branch continued to cruise through the Red Dragons lineup, only allowing a runner in scoring position in the bottom of the first to that point, as he got the first two outs of the final inning. Back-to-back singles by Cortland State hitters Anthony Simon (Suffern, N.Y.) and Matthew Michalski (Buffalo, N.Y.) followed by a walk, however, loaded the bases and put the game-tying run just 90 feet away. Cortland State turned to pinch-hitter Nick Hart (Fredonia, N.Y.) who on a 2-0 count was hit by a pitch to bring home a run and tie the game at 1-1.
The Gulls handed the ball over to junior reliever Davarn Nova (Buzzards Bay, Mass.) who faced just one batter, Cortland senior Mark DeMilio (Valhalla, N.Y.) who sent an 0-1 offering into right field for a game-winning RBI single.
McClain (1-0) earned the win, going 7.0 innings and allowing one earned run on eight hits and a walk with three strikeouts. Branch (0-1) suffered the loss as he allowed just three hits and two walks in 6 2/3 innings before Cortland's comeback win. He also struck out two batters.
Game Two: #3 Cortland State 8, Endicott 7
Endicott and Cortland State combined for 15 runs and 28 hits in game two as the Red Dragons built an 8-3 lead before the Gulls put up a four-spot on seven hits in the bottom of the sixth to make it a one-run game. In the sixth, Cortland would score two crucial runs on RBI singles by senior Adam Smith (Vestal, N.Y.) and Simon in the top half of the inning before Endicott's offensive outburst in the bottom half.
With one out, Gulls sophomore third baseman Mike Kochiss (Fairfield, Conn.) roped his second double of the day and advanced to third after a single through the infield by De Lotto. Hyde drove a RBI hit to right, scoring Kochiss, and put Casciano, who pinch ran for De Lotto, into scoring position. Hall recorded his second RBI of the doubleheader in the following at bat, dropping a hit deep down the right field line just out of the outstretched arms of the fielder. On the play, Hall aggressively rounded first base and unknowingly passed Hyde who was held up waiting to see if the right fielder made a play on the ball. Hall was called out on the play.
Hyde would get to third base on that same play and with two outs scored after a pinch-hit RBI double roped down the left field line by freshman Brad Rebello (Bellingham, Mass.) made it 8-6. Freshman Dan Zabbo (Dracut, Mass.) pinch-ran for Rebello at second base and advanced to third on an infield single from sophomore centerfielder Cam Farnham (Andover, Mass.). The Gulls showcased some aggressive base running in their first and third situation as Farnham was caught in between first and second on a pickoff by Red Dragons reliever Ryan McAlary (Shoreham, N.Y.) and as the defense tried to get Farnham at second, Zabbo broke for home and beat the throw to make it an 8-7 game.
Gulls junior righty Nick Quattro (Canton, Conn.), who got four outs with two strikeouts in his 1 1/3 inning appearance, pitched a 1-2-3 top of the seventh to give Endicott a shot to tie the game in their last at bats. McAlary, however, got the first two outs of the inning. Kochiss singled up the middle to get on base but McAlary stranded the runner by forcing the final batter to groundout back to the mound.