Baruch College stormed through the CUNY Athletic Conference all season, culminating with a dramatic 6-5 come-from-behind victory over Mitchell College in the championship game on Saturday at Keyspan Park. The win gives the Bearcats their first championship since 2001.
Trailing 5-4 in the ninth inning, Baruch’s Marcos Mejia drew a walk to start the inning, and then stole second. Benjamin Riofrio dribbled a ball down the third base line, and when the ball kicked past the third baseman, Mejia tried to score, but was tagged out at the plate. Thomas Daly followed with a double to center, scoring Riofrio to tie the game.
Daly advanced to third on a wild pitch. Mitchell then walked Jorge Rosado and David Chestnut to load the bases. Joseph Valentin, named Player of the Game afterwards, drew a bases loaded walk, scoring Daly and clinching the championship for Baruch.
The championship comes one year after the Bearcats finished with a 4-27 record, including a 3-12 conference mark. The Bearcats finished 8-2 in the CUNYAC this season.
Assistant coach Tom Santino spoke of the team’s efforts in the offseason, saying: “The team started to develop in September when we had Fall Ball and it continued to develop like a runaway freight train. We could smell a title back then, and today we’re the CUNYAC New York City Champions.”
Baruch drastically improved in every facet of the game from the previous season, increasing their home run totals from five to 19, lowering the team ERA from almost eight to just over five, and raising the team batting average from .251 to .327.
Santino credited the coaching staff, which he said gathered after last season with the intent of changing the team’s mindset.
“We changed the mentality of the team,” he said. “The work became harder, the work ethic became stronger. Joe Stolzer’s strength and conditioning program became an integral part of our success.”
Santino also noted the team’s chemistry saying: “I’ve never been associated with a core group of guys that stick together like a real family. When one guy is in a slump, the team rallies around him, and they let him know they’re there for him.”
Several players stepped up for Baruch, from Manny Guererro, who went from being a backup catcher to starting, to Mejia and Rosado, who Santino said “matched each other with tape measure home runs” all year long, to Joe Valentin, who according to Santino “showed the heart of the champion every time he stepped into the plate and sparked us with his bat.”
Santino also credited pitchers Daniel Brudie and David Chestnut. The two pitchers, who both went winless last year, combined for 10 wins for Baruch this season. Chestnut was named the tournament MVP.