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Brockport baseball looks to defend SUNYAC crown 

Mathieu Starke
Last season’s Brockport baseball team celebrating its SUNYAC championship win over Cortland. (Photo Credit: Mathieu Starke)

A lot has changed for the SUNY Brockport baseball team after ending 2023 as champions of the SUNYAC tournament. The Golden Eagles beat Cortland in two out of three games to close out the tournament and take home the championship. Brockport saw plenty of players from last year’s roster graduate, including four of their top five hitters and their top two pitchers by innings pitched.  

One thing that won’t change for Brockport is head coach Justin Beach, who has been with the program since 2004 and is entering his 17th year leading the team as head coach. Beach won his second SUNYAC championship last year but in 11 of his 16 past seasons, the Golden Eagles have reached at least the semifinals of the SUNYAC tournament. Last year’s team was 29-18 overall with an impressive 14-4 record within the conference, one that will be strong once again in 2024.  

“The SUNYAC is always tough, there’s a lot of parity so we know it will be a battle every day. It doesn’t matter where you start, it matters where you finish,” Beach said.  

This year’s squad features another key returner in senior outfielder Zach Eldred. Eldred has had an incredible tenure with the Golden Eagles thus far and in 2023, took home multiple honors including SUNYAC Co-Player of the Year, SUNYAC Tournament MVP and All-Region 1st team. His final stat line at the plate featured a .387 average, 70 hits and a .646 slugging percentage. Eldred will anchor a lineup with a lot of new faces and he’s eager to see more success past the conference tournament.  

“We have so many guys that aren’t here anymore, we’ve had basically the same starting lineup since my freshman year,” Eldred said. “I really want to make it to super regionals this year because the last two years we’ve been knocked out in the regional”.  

Being picked to finish second in the SUNYAC preseason poll, behind Cortland, also hasn’t sat well with the team. There are a lot of fresh faces, and therefore the term “rebuild year” has been thrown around when talking about Brockport’s 2024 roster. Eldred disagrees.  

“A lot of guys are hungry to prove people wrong, we have a lot of talent this year that just didn’t get the opportunity last year,” Eldred said.  

Around Eldred, starting catcher David Belsito also returns for his senior year. Belisto posted a .359 average with 10 RBIs last year and will hit in the middle of the order as a consistent piece. More importantly, Belsito will be a steadying force behind the plate for a pitching staff seeing a lot of turnover. With their top two starters gone, graduate student Colin Pytlak will likely be leading a young staff. Pytlak appeared in 14 games last year and pitched to a 6.46 ERA. He also started the final game of the conference tournament against Cortland, showing the trust he earned from Beach and his staff last year.  

Aside from Pytlak, junior Anthony Lapine also returns. He was a first-team All-SUNYAC selection last season, posting a 4.18 ERA in 15 games. Justin DelVecchio and Matt McGowan also return as graduate students to help anchor the staff. McGowan has only pitched in 21 career games and has made 16 starts but will be looking at an increased rotation role this season. As for DelVecchio, he’s made 34 appearances in the past two years, but with two starts. Despite some of the losses, Beach and his staff have confidence in the group headed into the season.  

”We try to set it up so that when one guy leaves, another will step up in his place and that’s no different this year,” Beach said. 

After last season’s championship, the Golden Eagles are ready for another exciting season, one that they believe can end in a similar way, at the top of the SUNYAC.  

”We have the same mindset, traditionally our program prides itself on playing our best baseball at the end of the year and making a deep run,” Beach said.  

“I just want to win, that experience last year was the best of my career so far,” Eldred added.  

Brockport opens their 2024 campaign with a matchup in Brooklyn against New Jersey City University on Saturday, Feb. 24. Their home opener is scheduled for March 22, when they host SUNY Fredonia.  

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