Lions make statement with win over Rutgers

After earning a No. 19 ranking in the American Baseball Coaches Association-Collegiate Baseball poll for Division III last week, the Lions’ baseball team proved itself worthy of that national recognition on Friday with a 7-2 win over Rutgers University-Camden, ranked No. 26 in the same poll.

“I would be lying if I said the ranking wasn’t important to the team,” sophomore reliever Blake Ortiz said. “We try to focus on one game at a time, not so much on how high we are ranked, but for being as young as we are, it’s a big step for us.”

A 3-for-5 effort with a solo home run and two RBIs from sophomore catcher Gerard Haran and seven strong innings of work from junior pitcher Joe D’Alessandro carried the College in their disposal of the Scarlet Raiders.

The Lions took charge in the top of the fourth inning by plating three runs on consecutive two-out doubles from Haran and junior right fielder Chris Wilson to break a 2-2 tie.

After the Lions tallied two insurance runs in the top of the ninth on Haran’s solo homer, Ortiz tossed two perfect innings to collect his third save of the year and give the College its first New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) victory of the season.

“It was the biggest game of the year for us so far,” Ortiz said. “Rutgers was trying to identify themselves as a team who should be recognized as a threat and by beating us, they could have really opened up some eyes. We knew that if we could stop their eight-game win streak then we would show the conference and ourselves that we are a solid ball club.”

The College jumped out early in the contest, tacking on single runs in the first two innings, but allowed Rutgers to tie the score with two runs on a string of singles and a wild pitch in the bottom of the second.

A run scoring fielder’s choice from Wilson opened the scoring in the first and an RBI ground out from junior center fielder Mike Bruschini gave the Lions their brief 2-0 lead in the second.

Junior designated hitter Rich Kropp went 2-for-4 with a run scored to contribute to the Lions’ 11-hit output. Wilson finished 1-for-4 with three RBIs and a run scored.

D’Alessandro recorded seven innings with two earned runs surrendered on six hits. He improves to 3-1 on the year with the win. As the NJAC and Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Pitcher of the Week last week, he has emerged as a solid contributor for the Lions recently, having allowed just three runs in his last 14 innings pitched.

Friday’s rainfall postponed the Lions’ Saturday doubleheader scheduled against Kean University. The pair of games was originally moved to Sunday afternoon but was then postponed again until April 9 due to the rain-trodden fields.

On Thursday, the College picked up a 10-3 win over Wilmington College that erased the memories of a 13-8 whipping at the hands of Franklin & Marshall College a few days before.

“To head into conference play with the momentum from this win gives our team a lot of confidence,” sophomore first baseman PJ Anzelone, who collected a pair of doubles and two RBIs, said.

Sophomore second baseman Andrew Cosgrove was 3-for-4 on the day with a double, a home run and four RBIs to lead the Lions, while freshman pitcher Mike Oliver tossed five innings and allowed three runs to record the win.

“With a few big conference games ahead of us, this win gets us back on the winning track we want to be on,” Anzelone said. “Our team is ready for conference play.”

The 16-3 Lions will look to improve their 1-0 record in conference play on Thursday at Richard Stockton College at 3:30 p.m.