Wearied Lions split against Montclair, finish week at 4-2

If anyone needed a holiday last Sunday, it was the College’s baseball team.

En route to a 4-2 week, the College played extra-inning-games on Thursday and Friday, followed by a doubleheader Saturday. The Lions played 41 innings of baseball in those three days.

The No. 3-ranked College split the double header with Montclair State University, dropping the first game 6-2 but rallying to thump the Red Hawks 17-5 in the nightcap.

In the second game, the Lions offense awoke and scored in each of the last six innings, pounding out 19 hits with eight doubles and a home run.

Junior Blake Bullis had a career day, going 3-for-5 at the plate with five RBI, two doubles and a home run. Senior Rich Kropp wasn’t to be outdone as he went a perfect 5-for-5 at the dish with three doubles and two RBI.

“I was glad we came back in the second game and swung the bats a little bit, and (Bob) Buskett pitched an outstanding game,” head coach Rick Dell said. “It was a tough four days because we had an 11-inning and a 12-inning game back-to-back.”

The College was up 7-0 after three innings, thanks to a six-run third inning. After an RBI-double by junior Gerard Haran, Bullis belted his three-run shot. Kropp kept the inning going with one of his three two-baggers.

Sophomore pitcher Buskett got his third win on the year with seven strong innings of work, allowing four runs on nine hits.

“It was a good performance at a time we needed it, but it didn’t surprise me, he’s very capable,” Dell said of Buskett. “He’s progressing and still developing, but he’s right on track to have a successful season.”

The College chased Montclair senior starter Jay Cook after just 3 1/3 innings. Cook allowed eight runs on 10 hits.

In the first contest, the Red Hawks used three long balls to do most of their damage at the plate. Sophomore Ryan Clark led off the game with a home run. After two more hits, sophomore Lou Politan went deep for a three-run bomb. Junior Andrew Vicaro added a dinger later in the game to cap off Montclair’s power surge.

Senior Charlie Iacono went 2-for-3 with a double, and Kropp added a home run for the Lions.

“In the first inning, we had bases loaded and we didn’t capitalize on that,” Dell said. “They got a few balls up in the air that carried out of the ballpark.”

Montclair sophomore Nick Recchia worked eight innings, allowing two runs on five hits. Junior Brian Kraus, 3-2, took the loss, going 3 2/3 with six runs on eight hits.

The game of the week came Friday as the College defeated rival Rowan University, who are ranked No. 6, 5-4 in 11 innings. The win was the Lions’ second against the Profs in a week. They defeated Rowan 5-4 on April 10 in Glassboro.

“This is a big game to win and there was a lot of excitement going into it,” Bullis said. “It’s our biggest rival school and it feels amazing.”

After surrendering a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the ninth inning, the College scratched out a run in the bottom of the 11th to sweep the season series.

In the final frame, Haran reached second base on a throwing error by Rowan sophomore third baseman Bruce Reibis. Bullis then moved Haran to third with a ground ball to the right side.

Senior right fielder Chris Wilson then delivered the game-winning RBI with a sacrifice fly to left field.

Rowan’s two-out ninth inning rally began with a single by junior Shawn Counard, who was driven home by senior Bobby Bullard. After a walk, senior Frank Galeota tied the game with a looping double that skipped past Lions’ senior shortstop Mike Bruschini.

Lions’ senior closer Ryan Casey fought through the jam and struck out freshman Tim Barnshaw with runners on second and third to push the game into extra innings.

“To come across that issue where we let another team come back, we know everything we need to do and how to stay focused because that’s something we talk about all the time,” Bullis said.

Senior Sean Finnegan earned the win in relief. Rowan junior Tyler Dempsey took the hard-luck loss, not allowing an earned run in three innings of relief. Sophomore Brad Kittle pitched well for the College in the no-decision, allowing two unearned runs in six innings of work with nine strikeouts.

The College was on the wrong end of another extra-inning game the day before when it fell to Rutgers-Camden 5-4 in 12 innings on the road.

Junior Mike Morris threw Bullis out at home in the top of the 12th, and then doubled home the winning run in the bottom of the inning.

“We have been playing real well, but there’s still room for improvement,” Iacono said. “We just need to continue to play the way we have been and peak at the right time.”

The College returns to action with a pair of home games tomorrow against Richard Stockton College and a rematch with Rutgers-Camden on Friday.