Wildcats Stun 1-Seed Bison in 11-Inning Thriller, 1-0

Wildcats Stun 1-Seed Bison in 11-Inning Thriller, 1-0

WASHINGTON – The SUNYIT Baseball Team rode yet another tremendous start from ace Joe Redmond (Stone Ridge, N.Y. / Rondout Valley) to a pulse-quickening 1-0 win in 11 innings on Friday, defeating the host and #1-seeded Gallaudet Bison in the first game of the NEAC Tournament.

You won't see a better pitching display anywhere in the NEAC than took place on Friday. Of course, a duel was expected as 1st-Team All-NEAC righty Redmond was set to square off against the assumed Bison starter Brandon Holsworth, the two-time reigning NEAC Pitcher of the Year.

But the Bison flipped the script on the Wildcats, gambling by throwing their number two starter Danny O'Donnell. It didn't seem to matter early on, however, as both starters were on cruise control through the first two innings.

In the top of the third, Wildcat third baseman Ryan Wegner (Rochester, N.Y. / Brockport) got plunked to lead things off. Jim Sass (Kingston, N.Y. / Kingston) then singled through the left side, giving the Wildcats a golden opportunity with runners on 1st and 2nd.

Ryan Dungey (Vernon, N.Y. / VVS) then came to the plate in an obvious bunt situation, and the lefty laid down a pretty good one on the third base side of the pitcher's mound. O'Donnell fielded the ball, whirled, and fired high to third. The Bison third baseman held the bag but it appeared Wegner may have beaten the throw. The field ump punched him out, however, leaving the Wildcats with runners on 1st and 2nd and one out.

A batter later, SUNYIT RBI-machine Kevin Rowlands (New York Mills, N.Y. / Notre Dame) strolled to the plate with runners on 2nd and 3rd and two outs. He worked the count to a 2-0 advantage, but O'Donnell came back with a pair of breaking pitches behind in the count, dropping them in for two called strikes to even the count. He then induced a groundball to end the inning on a high fastball, ending the threat from SUNYIT.

Redmond struck out two in the bottom half, and was back on the hill in a blink as the Wildcats went 1-2-3 in the top of the 4th.

The bottom of the fourth started with a classic baseball bad omen, as Billy Bissell started things off with an infield single. Shortstop Dante Rose (Utica, N.Y. / Notre Dame) made a great play on the ball, but never had a chance to get the speedy outfielder at first.

Redmond then fell behind the cleanup hitter Casey Hicks 2-0. He eventually worked the count full before giving up a deep fly ball to right-center. Dungey came over to make a nice running catch, however, giving the Wildcats one out with a runner on first.

Redmond fell behind the 5-hitter and ended up walking him, but came right back on the 6-hitter, getting up 0-2 before striking him out looking on a beautiful 1-2 fastball on the outside corner.

In a Jekyll-and-Hyde inning for Redmond, he walked the next batter on 4 pitches, then fell behind the rookie Ian Evans 2-0. Catcher Dylan Gorski (Deerfield, N.Y. / Whitesboro) came out to the mound to try to settle the big righty down.

It must have worked. Evans was surprisingly swinging after 6 straight balls, but it didn't matter as Redmond came in with a good low strike that the lefty fouled off. Redmond missed high with the next pitch, and – in danger of walking in the game's first run – came in with a called strike on the inside corner to take the count full.

What occurred next was the type of suspense only baseball can produce. Redmond threw two straight fastballs at the knees, both of which were fouled off by Klein. He then tried to go inside; the lefty pulled a hard groundball down the line that just missed the bag. It would have been an easy bases-clearing double.

Impressively, Redmond remained unfazed, coming back with a high fastball. Again, Klein fouled the pitch off. It was the freshman's 4th-straight foul ball with the count full, already a 9-pitch at-bat. Conventional wisdom is that the odds tilt further and further in favor of the hitter as an at-bat wears on. But Redmond, with perhaps the pitch of the game, pulled a rabbit out of his hat, freezing the lefty with an inside fastball for a called third strike, sending the SUNYIT bench into a frenzy as a pumped-up Redmond ran into the dugout.

Despite the momentum boost, the Wildcats were unable to capitalize. The visiting team wasn't operating in a vacuum, however, as O'Donnell seemed on a mission to prove himself up to the challenge issued by Redmond.  In fact, the hard-throwing right-hander retired 16-in-a row between the 3rd and 8th innings.

O'Donnell's performance, in a sense, made Redmond's endurance even more impressive, as the Wildcats starter came out and equaled him inning-after-inning, leading to the seemingly inevitable showdown in the bottom of the 9th.

The frame began with a game-saving defensive play by O'Rourke in left field. Gallaudet first baseman Justin Strong tagged Redmond for the hardest-hit ball of the game, a deep shot to left field. O'Rourke turned at a dead sprint back, and somehow hauled in a terrific over-the-shoulder catch just a step or two before the warning track, robbing Strong of an extra base hit to start the inning.

Redmond induced a pop-up to get 2 outs, but started to show his first chink in the armor as the next three batters lined balls to the outfield. The first two dropped in for singles, but luckily the third went right to Rowlands in right field, who was playing in to begin with given the winning run at 2nd base.

With that, Redmond – who was well over 100 pitches for the game - was finished. He submitted a virtuoso performance, finishing with 10 K's and just 2 walks in his 9 scoreless innings, while scattering 7 hits.

Neither team scored in the 10th as the lefty Ryan Dungey came on to pitch for SUNYIT. Coincidentally, it would be Dungey who got things started at the plate for the Wildcats in the top of the 11th.

In a game showcasing such pitching dominance, one had to figure something screwy might decide the game. Ryan Dungey confirmed that hunch by leading off the 11th by blooping a 1-0 pitch just over the 3rd basemen's head – and just inside the foul line – resulting in a double to lead off the inning. A batter later, Joseph O'Rourke poked an almost identical shot, scoring Dungey and bringing O'Rourke to 2nd. In fairness to O'Donnell, who threw an outstanding game, neither ball was hit particularly hard, but it was enough. The Bison did well to shut down the threat after that, as the catcher Hicks made a spectacular play on a short foul ball towards the first base dugout, hopping out of his crouch and sprinting 3 steps before making a diving catch to get the first out of the inning. O'Donnell then K'd Smith, and Gorski flew out. But the damage was done as SUNYIT took a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the 11th.

Dungey seemed understandably amped heading into the bottom of the 11th, and his first pitch to the clean-up hitter Hicks sailed high. He calmed down immediately, however, dropping in a curve for strike one before getting Hicks to foul off the next offering, running the count to 1-2. At that point Dungey climbed the ladder again, striking out Hicks with the high heat for the crucial first out of the inning.

The next Bison batter grounded weakly back to Dungey, and with two outs the lefty got Mitchell Bensman to fly out to left, giving the Wildcats a huge 1-0 win in 11 innings.

O'Rourke finished 2-for-5 with the game's only RBI, while Dungey went 1-for-5 and scored the winning run. Both Dungey and Redmond benefited from outstanding SUNYIT defense, as SUNYIT made just 1 error on the day, and came up with big plays such as a 5-4-3 double play started by Wegner and expertly turned by Sass, and several solid plays by the shortstop Dante Rose.

The Wildcats now await the winner of #2-seed Keuka and #3-seed Penn St.-Berks. The game was under way at time of publication.