Lions rolling as NJAC tourney approaches

The College’s baseball team is making its poor play two weeks ago seem like a mere aberration.

After losing four of five games from April 10-15, the Lions won seven of their last eight, with the lone defeat coming at the hands of Rowan University, ranked second in the nation.

Heading into the final week of the regular season, the College sits comfortably in the top three of the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) after rolling off three more conference victories in four chances over the weekend to improve to 27-9 overall and 9-4 in the NJAC.

“The baseball season is a marathon, not a sprint,” head coach Rick Dell said. “But now when it comes down to the end, it becomes a sprint.”

With two conference home games left to play this weekend, the Lions have an opportunity to jockey themselves up to a No. 1 or 2 seed in the NJAC Tournament. Tied with Rowan for second in the NJAC, the College will host the Profs on Friday at 3:30 p.m. in a match-up that could potentially determine its seed.

“We could lock up one of the top three seeds (this week) and play the first round of the NJAC Tournament here, which would be nice,” Dell said.

The Lions dropped last Friday’s meeting with the Profs 10-5, spoiling an otherwise solid outing from senior pitcher Vincent Petrillo with errors in the field. Petrillo tossed 5-2/3 innings and allowed two earned runs on six hits and seven strikeouts, but the Profs took advantage of three errors from the College to tack on four unearned runs.

“I thought we did pitch well,” Dell said. “Petrillo pitched very well. We just didn’t support him. I thought what we didn’t do was react well to the simple plays we need to make.”

Sophomore catcher Gerard Haran plated two runs on a ninth inning double and sophomore first baseman Blake Bullis added a 3-for-4 day at the plate.

Freshman pitcher Brad Kittle and sophomore pitcher Dave Waseleski each surrendered two earned runs in relief to account for the rest of the Profs’ scoring.

On Sunday, the Lions notched two of this week’s three conference wins by sweeping a doubleheader against Ramapo College.

The College slugged its way to a 12-4 victory in the first game that saw seven Lions’ batters tally RBIs. Junior right fielder Chris Wilson led the Lions with a 3-for-4, four-RBI day. Haran added two RBIs and two runs scored, while junior third baseman Rich Kropp collected a 2-for-4 with an RBI and three runs scored.

The Lions opened the scoring on RBI singles in the first inning from Haran and sophomore first baseman PJ Anzelone. They exploded for three more in the sixth and four in the seventh.

Junior pitcher Joe D’Alessandro improved to 5-1 by tossing 6-2/3 innings with four runs surrendered on nine hits. Sophomore reliever Blake Ortiz finished off the Roadrunners with 2-1/3 scoreless innings in relief.

In the second game, the Lions rode the bats of their top sluggers, Haran and Bullis, to a 9-4 win as the duo combined to drive in six of the College’s runs.

Bullis launched a two-run home run to help tally three first inning runs and finished the contest 4-for-4 with three RBIs and three runs scored. Haran roped two doubles to score three runs.

The College collected 17 hits in the game, with six batters recording multi-hit performances to support senior pitcher Brad Downs, who took the win by allowing four runs in seven innings.

The Lions set themselves up for the successful weekend with a 5-2 conference win over Richard Stockton College on Thursday.

“You’ve got to win that game going into the weekend,” Dell said. “It gave us a positive start.”

On a day when the Lions’ bats weren’t particularly potent, sophomore pitcher Brian Kraus allowed just two runs on five hits in 6-1/3 strong innings to improve to 2-0, while Ortiz offered 2-2/3 scoreless innings in relief to record his fourth save.

Wilson plated two runs and three other Lions chipped a single RBI.

The Lions will host Rowan in a key conference game on Friday before finishing off their regular season with a conference doubleheader against Rutgers University-Newark on Saturday.