Cougars hand Lions first two losses of the year

The baseball team’s perfect record was tarnished Saturday when Kean University swept a doubleheader against the College in Union.

In the first game, the No. 29 Cougars defeated the No. 1 Lions 4-1 behind a strong pitching performance from junior Dan Zeffiro. In the nightcap, Kean used a four-run fifth inning to beat the College 14-5.

“I thought the first ball game was a good game and we just came out on the short end,” head coach Rick Dell said. “But I was disappointed in the second game because we took the lead, gave it back immediately, but then lost it and didn’t answer.”

The wins raised Kean’s record to 16-6 (2-1 NJAC) and dropped the College’s record to 15-2 (1-2 NJAC).

Zeffiro (3-2) went the distance, allowing eights hits and one unearned run. The Cougars jumped on the Lions early, scoring three runs in the bottom of the first with their first six batters reaching base.

The Lions did threaten late in the game. In the top of the eighth, the College loaded the bases with two outs and power-hitting junior catcher Gerard Haran at the plate. But Zeffiro induced a foul out to end the threat, completing a 0-for-4 day for Haran.

In the ninth, the College had the tying run at the plate in senior Charles Iacono, but he grounded out to end the game.

Junior Brian Kraus (2-1) took the loss for the Lions. He allowed three runs-one earned-on five hits in five innings. The Lions committed five errors in the two games.

The College held a 5-2 lead after 4 1/2 innings of play in the second game, but Kean scored 12 runs in the final four innings to secure the sweep.

Junior Joseph D’Andrea started the scoring with a two-RBI triple in the fifth and the runs flowed from there. The Cougars plated four runs in the fifth, two in the sixth, one in the seventh and five in the eighth.

The Cougars hammered out a season-high 16 hits. Junior Perry Schatzow went 4-for-5 with four RBI, junior Aaron Richard went 3-for-4 with three RBI and D’Andrea added two triples and two RBI, and Lions sophomore Bill Kropp went 2-for-3.

Sophomore reliever Andrew Cupido worked 4 2/3 innings in relief to earn the win. Sophomore Brad Kittle took the loss, allowing six runs on eights hits in 4 1/3 innings.

“Eventually we were going to lose, and Kean is a pretty good team,” Kittle said. “It was surprising that we lost both though.”

“When you get into conference play, pitchers get better because they’re trying to beat you,” Dell said. “Hopefully we got those (losses) behind us and it was a good reality check. If we don’t make pitches and catch ground balls, we’re not going to win games.”

The question of who is the ace of the Lions’ staff may have been answered in the College’s New Jersey Athletic Conference opener with a 1-0 victory over William Paterson University (WPU) Thursday.

A strong pitching performance from sophomore Mike Oliver, along with an RBI-double by Haran in the sixth inning, led the Lions to victory.

Oliver scattered just three hits over six innings of shutout ball, maneuvering through several jams and holding the Pioneers to a 0-for-9 performance with runners in scoring position.

“I think he pitched tough when he had to,” Dell said. “He made some tough pitches in tight situations. That’s the key to pitching.”

Haran provided the lone run on the game’s only extra base hit when he hooked an off-speed pitch down the left field line, scoring junior Dan Czepiga in the bottom of the sixth.

“We kept on playing the game and stayed within the game and stayed within our game plan,” Dell said.

The biggest of Oliver’s five strikeouts came in the top of the fifth. With runners on second and third, Oliver got junior Wayne Poppe on a check-swing. The close call was met with disapproval from the WPU bench and brought head coach Jeff Albies out of the dugout.

The junior right-hander improved to 4-0 on the year while sophomore Ryan Lobban took the hard loss, allowing one run on five hits in 7 1/3 innings. Senior closer Ryan Casey worked the final three innings fanning four batters to earn his second save.

The one run on five hits was the lowest offensive output of the season for the College, who entered the game averaging 14 runs per game.

Dell won his 650th career game on March 28 when the College defeated Gwynedd-Mercy College 11-1. Senior Chris Wilson went 3-4 with a double and two RBI and Iacono added three hits, three stolen bases and two RBI. Junior Blake Bullis added his third home run of the year. Bullis leads the team with 25 RBI.

The College also broke the single season triples record when Haran smacked the team’s 23rd triple of the season.

The College will play Richard Stockton College tomorrow in Pomona.