|St. John Fisher Cardinals represented the Empire 8 in the 2016 playoffs.
d3photography.com photo by Larry Radlof
For the first time in the history of Empire 8 Baseball the conference tournament champion will receive an automatic qualification into the NCAA Division III Baseball Championships next season. In June, the NCAA Championships Committee approved the automatic qualification for the E8’s seven team baseball conference which includes full-time members Elmira College, Houghton College, Ithaca College, Stevens Institute of Technology, St. John Fisher College and Utica College as well as baseball affiliate member Canton.
“We are excited to embark on our first AQ season for baseball,” said Empire 8 Commissioner Chuck Mitrano. “Our institutions have competed with great success for many years and to provide this opportunity will further enhance the experience for our student-athletes. It’s an exciting time for Empire 8 Baseball.”
The Empire 8 Baseball Tournament will feature the top four qualifying teams after regular season play and will feature a double elimination format to determine the conference champion and automatic qualifier.
In the last five seasons, despite not having an automatic qualification, the Empire 8 Baseball Conference has sent five teams to the NCAA Regional Championships via at-large bids into the tournament (Ithaca in 2012, Fisher in 2012, Ithaca in 2013, Stevens in 2014, and Fisher in 2016). Two Empire 8 programs have advanced as far as the NCAA Division III College World Series (St. John Fisher in 2016 with a 39-13 record and Ithaca in 2013 with a 41-8 record). In 2013 Ithaca College, under the guidance of American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer George Valesente, came within one win of a national championship.
In 2015 the Empire 8 hosted its inaugural post season baseball tournament at Utica College and in 2016 top-seeded St. John Fisher hosted the conference tournament, with Ithaca earning the crown in both tournaments.