SU baseball celebrates 150th anniversary with sweep over Binghamton

Syracuse baseball celebrates 150 years

Notable alumni including the last Orange varsity baseball coach were in attendance at NBT Bank Stadium.
Published: April 16, 2023
Binghamton v Syracuse
Syracuse's Justin Zamkov (#18) makes a jump for home plate against Binghamton's Luke Costanzo (#27) at NBT Bank Stadium on April 15, 2023 in Syracuse, NY.

A different kind of history was on display Friday night at NBT Bank Stadium. The baseball being played didn’t involve the Triple-A Syracuse Mets as it usually does. Instead, the SU club baseball team took the field for a special occasion.

Syracuse University hasn’t fielded a Division I baseball program in half a century, yet it still holds a remarkable legacy. Before the rise of Syracuse men’s basketball on the national stage, baseball had a rich tradition on the hill — one that dates all the way back to 1873. 

During the 100 seasons that SU fielded a varsity baseball team, the program rose to remarkable heights, including a deep run in the 1961 College Baseball World Series. Twenty-three Orange alumni went on to play in the Major Leagues, including 1950 National League MVP Jim Konstanty of the Philadelphia Phillies. 

That was before the University unexpectedly dropped the program after the 1972 season. In its place, a baseball “club” was formed, lacking the same financial support as a scholarship sport. Despite the challenges associated with that, these Orange ballplayers have survived and thrived, over the past 50 years. 

To celebrate that success, team development officer Michael Patrick Geiss organized a fundraiser with the SU Alumni Office that made this unique opportunity possible. Geiss also coordinated with the Mets to hold the event, booked guest appearances, and helped design the gameday program and scoreboard graphics.

Binghamton v Syracuse
Binghamton v Syracuse

Griffin Bell (#24) of the Binghamton Bearcats slides to first base during game 1 against Syracuse at NBT Bank Stadium.

Binghamton v Syracuse

Syracuse's Lewis DeAngelis (#17) reacts after a run was scored against Binghamton.

Herm “Baseball” Card, the coach of the final varsity team, was honored before the first game of Friday’s doubleheader against Binghamton. He was joined by other returning baseball alumni and the seniors of this year’s club team. After years of playing for and coaching the Orange baseball program, Card is proud of the team.

“I like to tell people that my number has been retired by Syracuse University,” Card said. “As are all the other numbers.”

“I do want to say how much I appreciate that these young men, their parents, family, girlfriends have supported this program, supported them in being true student-athletes,” Card said.

Card, renowned journalist and author Scott Pitoniak, SU Chief Student Experience Officer Allen Groves, and University Chancellor Kent Syverud all threw out a first pitch following their pregame speeches. After that, hundreds of family, friends and other Syracuse fans watched the club play for free.

Playing in a professional ballpark is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many of those who put on a jersey Friday night, and it was certainly one they made the most of. 

“I think it was an unbelievable experience,” Syracuse Club Baseball President Connor Burke said. “Everybody was excited, loud, into the game, and I think that’s the best way to play baseball.”

Game one started off with some poor defensive play by Syracuse. A trio of errors allowed the Bearcats to score two unearned runs in the third inning, then the visitors doubled their lead in the fourth. Meanwhile, the Orange were without a hit until the bottom of the fifth. That was until eight-hole hitter Adam Neufeld slapped a single to right field, scoring Jack Corrado from second, making it a 4-1 game.

The Bearcats regained the run in the top of the sixth, extending their lead to four. The Orange had committed six errors by that point and the bats remained silent.

The ghosts of Syracuse’s past suddenly descended on the field as the Orange mounted a furious comeback. In a scene right out of a Hollywood film, Binghamton’s Travis Krzerienski suddenly lost command of the ball as the Orange were down to their final three outs. What resulted was a four-run outpour.

Chants of “Let’s Go Orange” rang out from the crowd that had huddled behind the third base dugout. Burke tied the game with a sacrifice fly-out to left field, then Tom Montfort found redemption for his three errors, lining a walk-off single over Binghamton’s leaping third baseman. As catcher Kyle Chi crossed home, the Orange poured out of the dugout and raced towards Montfort. And as they celebrated on the diamond, so did their supporters in the stands.

“I was excited, scared, confident, anxious, you name it.” Burke said. “I think the way it played out is exactly how I thought it would have been.”

Binghamton v Syracuse
Binghamton v Syracuse

A signed baseball bat is held by Herm Card ’68 during the pre-game ceremony of 150 years of Syracuse baseball before taking on the Binghamton Bearcats at NBT Bank Stadium.

Binghamton v Syracuse

Syracuse's Lewis DeAngelis (#17) swings his bat during game one against Binghamton.

If you didn’t know their history, you’d have thought the varsity program never left.

Game two was more of the same, an 8-5 victory for SU. It didn’t have the theatrics as the first one, but the feeling in the ballpark didn’t change. 

When it was all over, players took a few minutes to soak in what they had done the past several hours. Then one by one, they gathered their gear and exited the park through the grandstands. But as each player left, they all had the same determined look on their faces. They all said one thing without having to open their mouths.

Syracuse baseball lives on.