Cortland Sports Information Department
CORTLAND, N.Y. – Matt Valin (LaFargeville) and Chris Puzakulics (Vestal) allowed a combined seven hits and three runs, two earned, Wyatt Myers (Chittenango) hit a three-run homer to stake Cortland to an early lead and Mat Bruno (Rye) homered and doubled as the Red Dragons defeated Alvernia University, 7-3, to open NCAA Division III Baseball regional play at Wallace Field.
Cortland (32-11-1) is making its 27th straight NCAA tournament appearance but is playing in its first-ever "true" home playoff game. The top-seeded Red Dragons will face third-seeded Tufts in a winner's bracket game Saturday at noon. Alvernia (28-15-2) will play Penn St. Harrisburg in an elimination game Saturday at 9 a.m., with that winner meeting the Cortland/Tufts loser in Saturday's third game. The double-elimination regional will continue through Sunday.
Valin improved to 9-0 on the season after giving up five hits and two walks and striking out five in six innings. Puzakulics notched his third save with three scoreless innings. He allowed two hits and two walks and fanned one.
Alvernia starter Tim Carfrey gave up seven runs on eight hits in five and a third innings with three walks and a strikeout. Christian Burrus got the final two outs of the sixth and Justin Mercogliano and Michael Griffin each pitched a scoreless inning of relief for the Golden Wolves.
Cortland struck for three runs in the bottom of the first on a James Varian (Hopewell Junction/Trinity-Pawling) two-out infield single, a Dan Schweitzer (Poughquag/Arlington) walk and Myers' three-run homer to left. The lead grew to 4-0 in the third when Colin BeVard(Syracuse/West Genesee) singled with one out, stole second and scored on Varian's single to left center.
Alvernia scored all three of its runs in the top of the fourth to draw within 4-3. Nathan Sides and Matt Briner led off with singles and moved to second and third on a wild pitch. Franco Esposito grounded out to the pitcher, and took off on the throw to first and just beat the relay to the plate. An attempted squeeze bunt by Jami Wendel resulted in Valin throwing out a runner at the plate, but Logan Levan walked, Alex Salesky singled home a run, and a final run scored from second on a Joe Ginder infield single combined with a throwing error.
Bruno ripped a one-out solo homer to left center in the bottom of the fourth to give Cortland a 5-3 lead. The Red Dragons gained some breathing space in the sixth on Bruno's RBI double and Sam Kippen's (Lyncourt/Solvay) RBI single.
Alvernia threatened in the top of the seventh with two outs as Mike Cirilli walked and Sides singled to short. A throwing error after the hit advanced the runners to second and third, but Puzakulics got the next batter to ground out to end the inning. The Golden Wolves also put runners on first and second with two outs in the ninth but couldn't capitalize.
Bruno, Varian and Marcos Perivolaris (Mattituck) each finished 2-for-4, Myers was 1-for-2 with a walk, homer and three RBI, and Schweitzer walked twice and scored twice for the Red Dragons. BeVard finished 1-for-3 with a walk and three steals and extended his on-base streak to 28 games. Scott Giordano (Croton-on-Hudson/Croton-Harmon), however, was 0-for-4 and had his on-base streak snapped at 35 games.
Briner finished 2-for-4 and Sides was 2-for-5 for Alvernia.