By Jamir Wilson
On Saturday, the twenty-fourth ranked Salisbury baseball team (2-2) faced the top-ranked Cortland State Red Dragons (1-0) for the first of their two-game series this weekend. After multiple scoring innings for both sides, Cortland St. outlasted the Sea Gulls 15-12 in the high-scoring affair.
The Red Dragons, ranked as the number one team in the nation, saw their first action of the season against the Sea Gulls. Salisbury came off of their first loss of the season against Virginia Wesleyan College on Tuesday.
“There isn’t a difference in talent on either team, we’re usually two of the top teams in the country,” SU head coach Troy Brohawn said. “It’s about the difference from the neck up and it’s skillset and today they were tougher and they made the plays we didn’t.”
The Sea Gulls and Red Dragons are no strangers to each other, playing two times at the start of last season, with Cortland St. winning both games.
The Red Dragons’ offense found a spark in the third inning after trailing SU 1-0 with a bunt by Tyler Phillips who made it around to third base due to a fielding error by the Sea Gulls.
Errors by the maroon and gold have been a story of the new season, having nine in their first three games and committing five more against Cortland.
“When you make five errors, you have to play better behind your guys,” sophomore third baseman Jack Barry said. “We only gave up seven earned runs today, so take away all of the errors and we win this ballgame. We just have to play better defensively.”
The Sea Gulls faced Cortland’s ace pitcher, senior right-hander Jeff Cooke who was in command from the opening pitch. Cooke only gave up three hits in his appearance and gave up one earned run due to a wild pitch over his four innings of work.
Salisbury’s offense caught fire once Cooke was taken out of the game and was replaced by reliever Jake Casey who gave up three runs in the sixth inning.
“I thought we hit the ball really well today, put up a lot of runs and a lot of hits,” sophomore first baseman Jay Perry said.
Similarly to the game against Virginia Wesleyan, Salisbury made a comeback from a large deficit only to squander the opportunity presented to take the lead.
The Sea Gulls tied up the game in the sixth inning and gained a lot of momentum after a double by junior shortstop Scott Ardoin. Unfortunately, at the top of the seventh inning, Cortland took control back with seven runs.
“The turning point was when we were tied and we gave up seven runs on a couple errors and hits, our offense battled we’re going to swing the stick,” coach Brohawn said.
After Cortland’s seven scored in the seventh inning, Salisbury countered with a four-run seventh inning of their own keeping hope alive for an upset. Despite the valiant effort by the Sea Gull offense, pitching struggles and errors became the detriment of the maroon and gold’s chances against the nation’s top team.
Cortland’s senior second baseman Steven Figueroa featured as the best player on the field Saturday going 5-of-6 at the plate, with four runs batted in (RBI) and scoring four times. Junior right fielder Jon Warner and sophomore center fielder Paul Dondero both hit home runs for the Red Dragons, combining for five RBIs.
Perry blasted two home runs over the wall, and Jack Barry joined the home run party in the ninth inning.
“Starts on the mound with good mental preparation set the tone there, and hopefully everything goes well from there,” Brohawn said.
Salisbury takes on Cortland St. again on Sunday. First pitch is scheduled for noon at the SU Baseball Field.