APPLETON, Wis. -- On June 29, 2010, South Carolina won its first NCAA Division I baseball national championship. The Gamecocks lost their opening-round game of the College World Series, before coming through the elimination bracket and defeating UCLA two days in a row to claim the crown.
Cortland State’s Anthony Iacomini recalls the moment as if it were yesterday, witnessing this historic moment from the dugout as a redshirt freshman at South Carolina in 2010.
“It was always a dream of mine,” Iacomini recollects, “growing up I always watched South Carolina on TV and wanted to play for them. They saw me at a showcase and they gave an offer I couldn’t resist. It was a dream come true and then to win the College World Series as a freshman, it was just a dream come true for me.”
“Coach Tanner was always bringing out the best in me,” Iacomini said, “Absolutely a great experience, and to be able to bring that through my career gives me confidence, no matter where I play.”
Following his freshman season, Tanner helped Iacomini land at junior college Northwest Florida State. In his one year stint with the Raiders, Iacomini posted a .391 on-base percentage with 41 runs and 22 RBIs. The Raiders fell one game short of making the junior college world series, losing in the championship game of the state finals.
“It was an excellent experience,” Iacomini said. “I think we were ranked as high as no. 2 at the time before we lost in the state championship, one game away from the series.”
In 2012, Iacomini returned to the NCAA Division I ranks with the St. John’s Red Storm under the guidance of another legend, head coach Ed Blankmeyer. Compiling more than 600 career victories, Blankmeyer is the all-time winningest coach at St. John's and the Big East Conference to go along with his record five Big East coach of the year awards and another four Northeast Region coach of the year plaques.
From Scott Brown to Joe Brown and from the Red Storm to the Red Dragons, Iacomini made his final home at Cortland.
Scott Brown, current pitching coach at Vanderbilt, served as the St. John’s pitching coach for nine seasons in which him and Iacomini crossed paths. Scott Brown, a 1999 graduate of Cortland, played under head coach Joe Brown earning All-American honors. Following graduation, Brown began his coaching career by spending four years on the Cortland staff before joining St. John’s.
The Brown-to-Brown connection brought Iacomini to Cortland in which he has been starting in the infield for the better part of two seasons. In 2013, he yielded a .960 fielding percentage while hitting .311 and scoring 24 runs. In the final year of his collegiate baseball career he is hitting .340 while leading the Red Dragons in runs batted in (38), hits (50), and second in runs scored (32).
“It’s unbelievable [playing for Coach Brown],” Iacomini said of the past two seasons. “He really knows his stuff and gives you confidence. He sees the same things as Tanner and just an unbelievable coach.”
Joe Brown is the third different coaching legend in which Iacomini has had the opportunity to learn. The three NCAA coaches he has played under in Tanner, Blankmeyerer, and Brown have combined to win more than 2,300 games at a rate just under .700.
“All the coaches definitely have impacted me,” Iacomini said. “Coach Tanner got me headed in the right direction and I took it with me to St. John’s and Cortland. All coaches are going to have their own style and philosophy, but it has been nice that a lot of similar stuff is noticed and said to me.”
In Friday’s national quarterfinal against Salisbury, Iacomini drew a pair of walks and scored a run as the Red Dragons inch closer to their first national championship. Cortland takes on Whitewater on Saturday night in the winner’s bracket of the NCAA Division III national finals as he looks to start and end his career in similar, dream-come-true fashion, with a national title.
“It’s any college athlete’s biggest dream,” Iacomini said. “I am very fortunate to have won it my freshman year, but it is just as important to win one here at Cortland.”
It is often stated that how you start is important, but it is how you finish is what truly counts. In terms of the career of Anthony Iacomini, his Cortland Red Dragons are just three wins away from his career coming full circle and ending as it began – at the top of the world as a national champion.