The Liberty League tournament started out slowly for the Engineers. In the opening game of the tournament, RPI fell behind 8-2 to the Rochester Institute of Technology Tigers after six and a half innings. Then, after scoring one run in the bottom of the seventh, the Engineers broke out the bats in the eighth. Senior centerfielder Jared Jensen, senior second baseman Tim LeSuer, and sophomore designated hitter Thomas Desmond all doubled, and Rensselaer scored five runs to tie the game at eight.
The tie wouldn’t last long, though. Three RPI errors in the top of the ninth allowed the Tigers to take a 10-8 lead. Three Rensselaer batters later, the game was over and the Engineers were one loss away from elimination.
In game two of the tournament, the Engineers took a 10-1 lead into the eighth inning against the University of Rochester Yellowjackets. Rochester rallied, but Rensselaer staved them off by a final count of 11-7.
LeSuer recorded three hits, including a two-run home run in the sixth inning. Junior catcher Chris Holomakoff drilled a three-run round-tripper to give RPI an 8-1 lead in the fifth inning and finished with a team-high four runs batted in. Senior pitcher Sean Conroy pitched seven and a third innings and gave up five runs on eight hits and struck out six batters.
Clarkson University leftfielder Will Coleman singled to right in the top of the first in game three to give the Golden Knights an early 1-0 edge. The Engineers responded quickly, scoring at least one run in innings two through five to take a 7-1 lead after the fifth. Three Clarkson hits in the top of the sixth allowed the Golden Knights to score twice. That was as close as they came, however. Senior third baseman Tyler Listing RBI singled in the seventh and sophomore first baseman Jason Ramos singled to center to bring home LeSuer and Jensen. The final score was RPI 10, Clarkson 3.
After the first three games, Clarkson and the University of Rochester were both eliminated having each lost two games. That left 2-1 RPI and 3-0 RIT. Due to the double elimination nature of the tournament, RPI needed to win two in a row against the Tigers in order to win the title.
The Engineers struck first in game one on a senior shortstop Nick Palmiero sacrifice fly. The Tigers came back soon thereafter, scoring once in the third and once in the fourth to go ahead 2-1. Then, in the bottom of the fourth, Listing blasted a towering three-run homer to give the Engineers a 5-2 lead.
After six innings, Rensselaer had a 12-4 lead. RIT came back, scoring two runs in the seventh. In the eighth, Tiger second baseman Zach Zabel went yard solo style and designated hitter Brett Kajganich followed soon after with an RBI double to trim the lead to 13-8. In the ninth, after RIT added another run to cut the lead to 13-9, Conroy came in and secured three outs in four batters faced to polish off the victory for the top seed.
Senior rightfielder Shane Matthews tallied three hits in the win, including a two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth. Jensen, Ramos, Holomakoff, and sophomore designated hitter Matt Lawrence each added two hits and RPI totaled 16 for the game. Freshman pitcher Aaron Kalish pitched five and two-thirds innings, allowing four runs on seven hits and striking out two.
In the final game of the tournament, junior pitcher Greg Echeverria pitched seven and a third innings, giving up five runs (four earned) on 10 hits and striking out five. After a four-hit fourth inning yielded two runs for the Tigers, the Engineers led 6-5. This score held until the bottom of the seventh, when Holomakoff singled with the bases loaded to drive in all three runners following a fielding error by RIT rightfielder Chris Barr. Then, a passed ball allowed Holomakoff to score and open up a 10-5 lead for the home team.
Once again, Conroy came on in relief and pitched one and two-thirds innings. During that span he allowed just one hit and struck out two to finish off the game and the tournament for RPI. Echeverria earned the victory, his sixth of the season.
The Liberty League tournament win is RPI’s second in three seasons. Ramos, Holomakoff, and Jensen earned All-Tournament team honors while LeSuer earned the title Most Outstanding Player. Furthermore, by winning the Liberty League championship, the Engineers earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III championships. The bid marks RPI’s 18th NCAA appearance.
The Engineers will be the sixth seed in the New York Region of the NCAA tournament and will face third-seeded Keystone College tomorrow, May 13 at 4:30 pm in Auburn, N.Y.