For the College’s baseball team, the heartbreak of Friday’s 4-3 extra inning loss to Rutgers University-Camden didn’t last long. The Lions rebounded on Saturday afternoon to sweep a road doubleheader from William Paterson University.
“Psychologically, we were concerned that that loss (to Rutgers) could bring us down today and it definitely didn’t,” head coach Rick Dell said.
The Lions, ranked No. 14 in Division III in the American Baseball Coaches Association-Collegiate Baseball Poll, are now 22-8 overall and 6-3 in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC). The sweep jumps the College back up to third place in the NJAC after dropping to fifth with Friday’s loss.
“It was important to get one of those (against Paterson),” Dell said. “At the very least, you need to get a split. It’s a good day if you get a split and if you get both, you had a great day.”
The College took the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader 7-5 from the Pioneers behind a dazzling game from sophomore catcher Gerard Haran, who scored or drove in all of the Lions’ runs.
Haran roped a game-winning three-run home run over the left field fence in the top of the ninth to break a 4-4 tie. The estimated 380-foot blast was his seventh homer of the year.
Haran plated a run in the first with a single and laced an RBI-double in the third. He finished the game 3-for-5 with two runs scored and five RBIs. He has now driven in 21 RBIs in the previous 11 games.
“He’s given us some pop in the middle of the lineup and that gives us a lift,” Dell said. “We’re not always going to be breathing easy and he’s kind of carried us.”
The slugger leads the NJAC with 50 RBIs and boasts a .404 batting average with a .725 slugging percentage. On Monday, he was named the New Jersey College Baseball Association Player of the Week.
After the College jumped out to a 4-0 lead by the third inning, the Pioneers mounted a slow comeback, posting a single run in the third, fifth, sixth and eight innings to tie at 4-4 before Haran’s home run sealed it for the Lions in the ninth.
Junior pitcher Joe D’Alessandro tossed seven innings and gave up three runs on three hits for a no-decision.
In the second game, after going down 2-0 in the first inning, the Lions chalked up seven unanswered runs to record an 8-3 win.
Sophomore first baseman Blake Bullis started a five-run rally in the fourth inning with a solo home run, his seventh of the year. Junior shortstop Mike Bruschini followed with a two-run double and two batters later, junior third baseman Rich Kropp capped the scoring with a two-run single.
Eleven batters came to the plate during the inning for the College.
The winning pitcher, senior Vincent Petrillo, threw 5-2/3 innings and allowed three runs on three hits. He is now 6-1 with a 3.20 ERA.
Sophomore pitcher Bill Opel tossed two scoreless innings of one-hit ball in relief and junior centerfielder Charles Iacono went 2-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored.
In Friday’s loss to Rutgers, the Lions exchanged the lead with the Scarlet Raptors three times before losing in the 10th inning on an RBI single from senior outfielder Ed McDonnell.
“It was disappointing,” Dell said. “They have a good team but it’s the manner in which we lost.”
In the bottom of the ninth, the Lions failed to score with the bases loaded and their two biggest sluggers, Haran and Bullis, at the plate. After the Scarlet Raptors took the lead on McDonnell’s single, the Lions stranded three more runners with no outs in the bottom of the 10th to take the loss.
“If we went down 1-2-3, it isn’t as much of a dramatic loss,” Dell said.
Sophomore pitcher Brian Kraus surrendered three hits in seven innings and sophomore reliever Blake Ortiz, who was responsible for the game-winning run, took the loss.
Haran continued to carry the Lions in Monday’s 9-5 win over Gwynedd Mercy College. He hit his eighth and ninth home runs of the year during a late rally to put away the Griffins.
Trailing 5-4 entering the bottom of the seventh, the Lions tallied five runs over the next two frames behind a home run in each inning from Haran, who finished 3-for-3 with five RBIs, two walks and two runs scored.
Senior pitcher Brad Downs surrendered five runs and struck out nine over six innings for a no decision. Ortiz took the win with three scoreless innings in relief.
Last Wednesday, the College suffered an 18-4 thrashing at the hands of Messiah College.
The Falcons took off to an early 9-0 lead as they tallied five runs in the first and poured in four more in the second. Six Lions pitchers couldn’t stop the Falcons’ offensive onslaught as Messiah batters collected 22 hits on the day, eight of them for extra bases.
Junior pitcher Ryan Casey took the loss in just 1/3 innings of work.
The College will continue NJAC action as it hosts Richard Stockton College on Thursday at 3:30 p.m.