LIU baseball ousted, but still ‘outstanding’
Loss to Wake Forest in NCAAs ends dream season for Sharks
They lost their two NCAA Regional games over the weekend, but the Long Island University baseball team still had plenty to celebrate.
“This is an outstanding year for LIU baseball,” Sharks coach Dan Pirillo said after Saturday’s 10-4 defeat to Wake Forest before a crowd of 1,752 in College Park, Maryland ended the greatest season in the program’s history.
Winners of an LIU-record 37 games, eclipsing the previous mark of 31, the Sharks were crowned Northeast Conference champions on May 29 and received the school’s first NCAA Tournament bid since 2018.
Though they were stomped 23-2 by top-seeded Maryland on Friday night, LIU still had hope entering Saturday’s afternoon showdown with the Demon Deacons (41-18-1).
But a four-run outburst by Wake Forest against Sharks starter Jalen Wade in the opening frame proved too difficult to overcome after the Deacons added four more in the sixth inning to open an 8-0 cushion.
Jack Power blasted a two-run homer in the ninth for LIU, but it was too late to save what will go down as the most productive campaign the program has ever put together.
“It’s always the hardest day of the year,” added Pirillo after guiding the Sharks to the NCAAs for the second time in four years.
“There are lot of guys whose careers end with that final out today. But I’m so proud and so grateful to watch them play this spring — getting a chance to compete for a championship, giving everything they’ve got.”
Giovanni Ciaaccio and Luke Turner drove in the other runs for the Sharks, who went 18-9 in NEC play and were 19-12 against their non-conference foes.
Relievers Kurt Lange and Josh Gainer combined for three scoreless innings for LIU, which waved goodbye to 13 graduating seniors, some of whom made their second trip to the national championship tournament.
Colin Adams, Ciaccio, Victor DeNicola, Nick DeSalvo, Michael Edelman, Joshua Gainer, Lange, Joshua Loeschorn, Ryan Mullahey, Ryan Neuweiler, Turner, Wade and Christopher Wasson will not be around next year.
But the players who spearheaded this drive and will be back for more are now experienced in what it takes to be a champion at the NEC level and a competitive team with a national title at stake.
“It’s been talked about within our program to keep getting on to the next level,” Pirillo said. “This year we were able to show what we can do in the NEC. … [and] breaking the win record.
“It’s really huge for what we’re trying to do at LIU. The next step is to do a little bit more at the regional. It’s not easy. There are no easy regions. There are no easy teams. But I think that’s the next step to get where we want to go.”
SHARK BITES: Loeschorn, who was named a Collegiate Baseball second-team All-American last Thursday, had a rough outing on the mound vs. host Maryland on Friday. The 6-foot-3 senior right-hander and staff ace surrendered nine runs — only one earned — over 1 2/3 innings. “Josh, I felt, was pitching behind all game,” Pirillo said. “He couldn’t get ahead. He couldn’t get his second pitch over for a strike. He’s a guy who has been big for us all year — one of the best pitchers in our conference and even the Northeast. He just didn’t have his stuff today. That’s a guy I’d go to battle with every day, as much as he’s done for this program and us this year.” … The 23-2 loss to the Terps was the most runs LIU had surrendered since 2012, when it suffered a 27-13 loss to Buffalo.
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