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SUNY Maritime claims first-ever Skyline Conference title

SUNY Maritime baseball defeated Mount Saint Mary, 14-2, at St. Joseph's' Gregg Alfano Field, winning the first Skyline Conference title in program history on May 8, 2017. (Credit: Newsday/Kenny DeJohn)

Baseball players at SUNY Maritime spend most of their time in uniform . . . it’s just usually not the uniform worn on the diamond.

They made history in their on-field attire Monday, as the second-seeded Privateers defeated No. 5 Mount Saint Mary, 14-2, in the Skyline Conference championship at St. Joseph’s’ Gregg Alfano Field.

The Privateers clinched an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament as a result of their first Skyline title.

Anthony D’Ancona pitched a complete game, allowing two unearned runs. Phil Russo and Aaron Schiavoni both went 3-for-5, and Chris Deddo, who earned Tournament MVP honors, went 2-for-3 with three runs scored.

The athletic accolades, while fulfilling, are secondary for many athletes at Maritime. Student-athletes at the prestigious college tucked under the Throgs Neck Bridge have enough on their plates before the rigors of another season.

“It’s a different experience,” junior Stephen Semler said. “It’s not a normal college, and I love that part.”

Semler is one of 10 players in the school’s U.S. Coast Guard License and Regiment program, which prepares students for careers in fields including marine transportation and marine engineering. It requires them to wear uniforms to class, submit to room inspections and abide by strict curfews.

Joe DiLeo, Matt Costleigh, Sean McQuail, Joe Scerra, Luciano Besh, Peter Maes, Connor Alwan, Tyler Stuart, Semler and Schiavoni, several of whom are key players for Maritime, are all in the program.

Their commitment includes the agreement to spend 180 days at sea, split between cruises of 45, 45 and 90 days depending on a student’s year in school, in the summers before graduation. This year’s cruise left Maritime early Monday morning, with Montauk as its first destination and stops scheduled for Italy, Portugal and Spain, among other places.

Normally, everyone leaves Maritime together. But the players got an exception given the potential to make athletic history, and they received orders to arrive in Montauk Tuesday at 6 a.m. instead. They stayed in Sag Harbor at Schiavoni’s home to minimize their morning drive.

These 10 won’t compete in the NCAA Tournament because of the cruise, but the thrill of Monday’s win proved enough for some. The rest of the team will find out its NCAA opponent on Sunday.

“What we go through on a regular basis definitely isn’t your average college experience, but I feel like it makes us work harder,” said Schiavoni, who added that attending Maritime is about the “long-term goal” of being successful in life. “We put a lot of effort into what we do on the baseball field because it’s kind of like our release.”

Third-year coach Charlie Barbieri said he knew that taking this job would be difficult given overwhelming daily schedules but said the players’ dedication made it easier.

“I knew that coming here, these guys know they’re not going to be Major League Baseball players,” he said. “They’re going into a different line of work.”

The praise from those not in the regiment is seemingly endless. D’Ancona called the work of his teammates “unbelievable.” Matthew Alwan, Connor’s father, said he couldn’t be prouder of his son and his teammates. Athletic director Kristofer Schnatz could only chuckle when delving into their daily lives.

But in the end, it’s all done for a purpose. Maritime prepares its students for life after baseball.

“The reward at the end is immeasurable,” Barbieri said.

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