Stark a big hit with Ithaca College, team third in World Series

Luke Stark once thought about transferring from Ithaca College, but his love of baseball kept him at the school. His decision to stay paid off because he was a key player in the Bombers’ playoff run to the 2013 Division III World Series.

Stark, Ithaca’s starting center fielder, and a 2010 Guilderland High School graduate, came to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning during the Bombers’ final World Series game against Southern Maine. Down to his last strike, Stark hit the ball past second base, bringing in the tying run.

Ithaca went on to lose in 13 innings, 5 to 4, finishing third in the World Series tournament.

“I’ve never had a hit that important,” Stark said this week. “It was a pretty big high.”

Stark, an exercise science major, considered leaving Ithaca last year because of the expensive tuition, and also because he wasn’t enjoying much of his time outside of baseball. “I would have regretted it because I’m close to my team,” he said. “You should really love being at college, but I didn’t until this year.”

Stark was selected to the All-Tournament team for the World Series and was also a First Team All Conference selection for the Empire 8. After winning a Regional Championship, Ithaca chartered a flight to Appleton, Wisc. for the World Series.

“It was an awesome experience, and we got treated like Division I athletes,” said Stark. “It was on television, so everyone back home got to watch.”

Ithaca lost its first World Series game to Linfield, which went on to win the championship, but then beat Linfield a few days later, 6 to 4, to get back into the winners’ bracket. The World Series is a double-elimination tournament.

Stark batted .326 for the Bombers (41-8) with 44 hits, 21 RBIs, and 21 runs scored. He went to the state tournament with the Dutchmen in 2010, and said that Guilderland coaches Doug LaValley and Chris Yager taught him a lot about baseball, preparing him for the success he would find at Ithaca.

“I give 100 percent all of the time,” said Stark, who wants a career in strength conditioning. “I never want baseball to leave my life. If I can’t play, then I want to be involved in one way or another.”

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