May 14—OSWEGO — The Oswego State University baseball team is experiencing a long-awaited return to normalcy, which means nationally recognized success and historically significant production for the decorated program.
The Lakers recently ended their regular season with a 21-3 overall record and a 14-2 mark in the SUNYAC. They were ranked No. 22 in the nation in the latest Top 25 poll released Tuesday by D3baseball.com and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and they are the top team in the New York State Region according to the Division III rankings at NCAA.com.
Oswego State won the SUNYAC West Division and will host the second-place team from the East, Oneonta, at noon Saturday to begin the postseason. They will play a doubleheader at Laker Baseball Field to begin the three-game series, with the deciding game slated for Sunday in the same location if necessary.
The Lakers started 6-3 last spring before the season was called off due to COVID-19 concerns. Oswego State baseball coach Scott Landers said that he was excited for his returning players to get the green light for the season on Feb. 23 and appreciative for his team's return to the field.
"I think the biggest thing for us this year is just the guys being excited every day to come to the field and being able to play again, and kind of getting back to normalcy a little bit," Landers said. "From a baseball, physical standpoint, we're in the top five in a lot of offensive categories and those numbers haven't gone away from game to game for the most part."
Oswego's batting lineup has showed no signs of rust from the year away, resuming its trademark discipline at the plate and advantageous approach on the basepaths to spark an offense that lines up with the nation's best.
The Lakers entered the week ranked fifth in all of Division III in batting average (.364), second in stole bases per game (3.67), third in on-base percentage (.479), and tied for third in runs per game (11.8).
They led the SUNYAC in runs (283), runs batted in (246), bases on balls (147) and triples (10), while finishing second in total hits (293) and third in home runs (15) for the regular season.
Seniors Ryan Enos and Kyle Lauria have helped set the blistering pace for the deep and potent lineup as the only pair of SUNYAC teammates hitting for better than a .400 average with at least 30 runs batted in and 10 stolen bases. Lauria finished the regular season batting .417 with SUNYAC bests of 38 runs batted in and 18 stolen bases. Enos hit for .412, knocked in 34 runs and went a perfect 12-for-12 in stolen base attempts.
"For us offensively, you can see it, we're very athletic and dynamic," Landers said. "We can get extra-base hits, we can hit home runs, we can bunt, we can run, and I think the biggest key if you look through the lineup, we have a lot of discipline at the plate for the strike zone. They know the strike zone, they're aware of it, they make pitchers pitch, and then once we're on the bases we create a lot of havoc."
The Lakers' regular season was highlighted by a 16-game win streak from April 16-May 4. That marked the second longest unbeaten stretch in program history, falling just shy of the record 18 in a row won by the 1982 squad.
"I honestly didn't even think about 16 in a row, or 14 in a row or 12 in a row, it was just, get to the next game and do what we do and win these nine or seven innings, win this second game of a doubleheader, don't let down and let's get better and peak at the right time in the postseason," Landers said. "At the end of the day, 16 games in the beginning of the year really doesn't mean a lot, it's where you are at the end."
Oswego will enter the postseason with a win percentage of .875, which is on pace to be the second-best ever by the team, trailing only the record of .889 established in 1962.
Over the previous four seasons from 2016-19, the Lakers won at least 29 games and reached the NCAA Division III Regionals every year. They advanced to the College World Series in 2017 and 2018.
The NCAA Division III Selection Show is slated for May 23, and Oswego players and coaches will likely be watching to determine their next step, as has become the annual routine.
Landers said that he will always value the way his players led that charge after a challenging year and a season that included frequent COVID-19 testing with no spectators allowed for SUNYAC games.
"There is a lot left to be determined in the postseason, but I will remember, really the deep respect for these guys and how they have handled the adversity and got back to normal life," Landers said. "Really just an excitement for them that they got the opportunity this year to really move forward a little bit in their lives."