Lions get No. 1 ranking after steamrolling Owls

The baseball team used an offensive explosion to remain perfect on the year by sweeping a doubleheader at Haverford College on Saturday.

The team now ranks atop all of Division III according to the American Baseball Coaches Association poll released March 27.

With lopsided wins of 26-1 and 16-5, the College raised its record to 13-0. The College has outscored its opponents 185-53 this season. The Lions belted six home runs on the day and scored a whopping 42 runs.

“It helps that we returned most everyone from our lineup and we had a pretty good hitting team last year,” Gerard Haran, junior catcher, said. “We got a lot of speed and power. We can hit the ball over your head or we can play small ball.”

“Everyone in the lineup is hitting well, even the hitters that are coming off the bench for a pinch hit,” junior first baseman Blake Bullis said.

Senior Mike Bruschini led the charge offensively in the first game, going 3-for-3 with two triples, four runs scored and five RBI.

Bullis added his first home run of the season to go along with a double and two RBI, and sophomore Dave Mebs was perfect at the plate, going 4-for-4 with two doubles and four RBI.

Junior Brian Kraus picked up the win, scattering three hits in seven innings of work with eight punchouts and no earned runs. Kraus improved to 2-0 on the year.

“Last year we lost three of our four starting pitchers and this year our younger guys have been performing very well on the mound,” Bullis said.

“We need people to step up and fill those holes,” head coach Rick Dell said. “I think our bullpen could be the key to our success. At the end of the day, it’s going to come down to how you pitch.”

Bruschini and Bullis continued their torrid days in the nightcap victory. Bruschini went 3-for-6 with a home run and two RBI. Bullis added a double and two RBI in a 4-for-5 effort. Senior Chris Wilson chipped in with a double, home run and two RBI while going 3-for-6.

Sophomore Brad Kittle picked up the win and improved to 2-0. Kittle went six innings, allowing four earned runs on eight hits with five strikeouts. With the win, Kittle remained perfect on his career at the College. Kittle went 4-0 last season and is now 6-0 this year.

“We have a lot of great arms on our staff and even though we have a lot of sophomores and juniors, these guys have definitely been through the fire before,” Haran said.

“We have been beating teams pretty bad recently and it is easy to get carried away at the plate,” Bullis said. “We have all talked about remaining focused at the plate during a blow-out game.”

The College picked up its 11th win on Friday in Lancaster with an 8-4 win over Franklin and Marshall College. The College had a one-run lead until the sixth inning, when it pushed three runs across.

Sophomore right-hander Mike Oliver struck out 10 batters en route to his third win of the year, yielding three earned runs off five hits in six innings of work.

Senior Ryan Casey worked the final three innings and fanned three batters to earn the save.

Haran and senior infielder Rich Kropp provided the offense. Haran went 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI. Kropp also went 2-for-3 scoring two runs with two stolen bases. The Lions swiped six bases on the day.

The College tied its single-season triple record in the nightcap. With 22 three-baggers, the College has already equaled the mark set in 2000. Junior Dan Czepiga currently leads the team with five triples.

Haran and Oliver have already captured New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Player of the Week honors for the opening week of the season. On Thursday, Haran was also named the National Player of the Week by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association.

Haran pointed to the protection he gets hitting in such a potent lineup.

“It was nice to get all those honors, but your stats tell you what you did yesterday and all that means is that I’m not going to see as many fastballs,” Haran said. “We got two guys that are fast in front of me and an All-American behind me, so I’m getting a lot of fastballs. It’s a very good situation for me to be in.”

The College is scheduled to play its first home game tomorrow when it will open its NJAC schedule against William Paterson University.

“Your conference season is extremely important and these games become critical,” Dell said. “In our conference, you consistently have good competition and you’re playing for keeps.”

The Lions are not focused on remaining undefeated. “We can only take it one game at time,” Bullis said. “Many things have to go right in order to win a game, we just have to continue to go out there and have fun.”