Bullis, Haran go deep as Lions sweep Knights

The College picked up two easy conference wins to earn a sweep of New Jersey City University (NJCU) Sunday, raising its record to 19-2 (4-2 NJAC). NJCU fell to 13-4 (1-5 NJAC).

The No. 3-ranked Lions won the first game 11-2 and coasted to a 15-1 victory in game two, pounding out 32 hits and plating 26 runs in the two games.

All-American juniors Gerard Haran and Blake Bullis both went deep and drove in four runs apiece to pace the Lions’ offense. Haran went 2-for-4 with four RBI and Bullis went 2-for-5 with a double and four RBI. Senior outfielder Charles Iacono pitched in with a 3-for-4 effort, scoring two runs and swiping two bags.

“These are games you anticipate winning and that takes the pressure off you going into your bigger games,” head coach Rick Dell said. “Today was one of those days you needed to sweep. We did what we were supposed to do with them today.”

Sophomore pitcher Brad Kittle went seven strong innings, scattering five hits with nine punchouts to improve to 3-1.

“I think he made a mechanical adjustment and pitched well today,” Dell said. “He’s been getting better every time he goes out.”

The College’s offense didn’t wait long to start producing. Haran blasted a three-run shot, en route to a five-run first inning, and the Lions never looked back. Bullis added a two-run home run in the second.

“We’ve got a couple real good people in the middle of the lineup: Haran, Bullis, Rich Kropp,” Dell said. “They all compliment each other. You’re going to have to pitch to one of those guys and getting people on base in front of them only helps more.”

In the second game, five Lions collected multiple hits on the way to a 15-1 victory. Senior third baseman Kropp went 3-for-3, scoring three runs and driving in one. Junior outfielder Tom Grohs was 3-for-6 with two RBI and a pair of runs scored. Senior outfielder Chris Wilson chipped in with two hits, three runs scored and two RBI.

Junior Bill Opel pitched 6 2/3 strong innings to raise his perfect record to 4-0. Opel allowed one run on six hits and fanned eight batters while walking five. Opel took a shutout into the seventh.

“It was a real good sign the way our pitchers responded this week,” Haran said. “(Mike) Oliver had a strong outing, Kittle threw the ball real well today and Opel is quietly having a very strong season.”

On a sour note, Iacono’s streak of 22 consecutive steals was broken when he was picked off trying to steal second late in the second game.

On Monday, the Lions posted a 5-4 home victory over the sixth-ranked Profs of Rowan University.

In the bottom of the eighth, the Profs scored two runs to whittle the Lions’ lead down to 5-4. With one out and the bases loaded, senior pitcher Ryan Casey ended the threat by fanning the next two Profs batters. Casey pitched the last 1 2/3 to earn his fourth save of the year.

Lefty starter junior Brian Kraus got the win to improve to 3-1 and threw seven strong innings, while scattering five hits to go along with seven strikeouts.

With the win, the third-ranked Lions improve to 20-2.

Thursday, the College earned a come-from-behind NJAC victory by defeating Richard Stockton College 7-5 in Pomona.

Haran delivered the big blow with a three-run home run in the seventh inning to give the Lions a 6-4 lead, which they would not relinquish.

“They had been working me away with curveballs all day, so I just guessed he’d try getting another one out there,” Haran said. “This time the ball stayed up for me and I was able to get into it a little bit.”

Oliver collected the win and remained perfect on the season with a record of 5-0. The sophomore pitcher allowed only one earned run – and four unearned runs on six hits in six plus innings of work. Casey pitched three innings of shutout ball to earn his third save of the season.

Stockton threatened in the bottom of the seventh its one earned run off Oliver, but Casey entered in relief and shut the door. The College added an insurance run in the top of the eighth.

Haran was 2-for-5 on the day with a double and had three RBI to go along with his key home run. Junior outfielder Dan Czepiga went 3-for-5 with a double and an RBI.

The Lions will take on the University of Rutgers-Camden on the road in a 3:30 p.m. conference matchup Thursday.