Lions crush opponents with homers, have 3-0 week

The College rode a tremendous power surge en route to an undefeated week, scoring double-digit runs in victories over Rutgers University-Camden, Richard Stockton College and Messiah College.

The wins raised the Lions’ record to 26-4 and 9-4 in the NJAC. They are ranked No. 2 in the latest American Baseball Coaches Association Poll.

Junior outfielder Jeff Botti and sophomore pitcher Bob Buskett led the Lions to a 12-2 victory over Rutgers-Camden Friday, avenging an extra-inning loss earlier this month.

Botti got the start in left field and capitalized by going 2-for-4 at the plate with a three-run home run and four RBI.

Senior third baseman Rich Kropp and senior outfielder Chris Wilson also added doubles, while senior outfielder Charlie Iacono and junior infielder Andrew Cosgrove had two hits in the College’s 13-hit attack. Kropp’s double in the eighth inning drove in two runs.

Cosgrove also shined in the field, making two spectacular diving plays up the middle.

“I like what we did today,” head coach Rick Dell said. “Cosgrove made some great plays and we got some clutch hitting. Botti put it out of reach. We got that one good swing with runners on base and that took their spirit away.”

Buskett pitched seven strong innings, allowing two runs on six hits to raise his record to 4-0.

The left-hander worked out of his only trouble in the fifth inning when he got senior Nick Faragasso to fly out to center field with the bases loaded.

“(Buskett) got the nod today against a real good team and pitched well,” Dell said.

Senior pitcher Sean Finnegan worked two innings of perfect ball to close out the win.

Sophomore Steve Sooy was saddled with the loss after 2 2/3 innings of work, allowing five earned runs with four walks.

The College hopped on the board with two runs in the bottom of the first with RBI from junior first baseman Blake Bullis and Wilson.

In the third inning, the College strung four singles together along with two walks to build a 5-0 lead, and Botti’s home run in the sixth put things out of reach.

Rutgers-Camden’s junior center fielder Nate Buchter went 2-for-3 to reach the 100 career hit mark.

“This is a big win,” Botti said. “Last week we lost a nail-biter to them, but everyone played a great game and we broke things open a little later. We made some great plays today.”

It was Bullis’ turn to lead the hit parade in a 17-4 victory over Richard Stockton Thursday. Bullis had a career day, hitting three home runs and driving in five runs.

Bullis’ partner in offensive crime, junior catcher Gerard Haran, opened the floodgates with a two-run homer to left-center field in the bottom of the first that careened off a Townhouse South roof.

The dinger gave Haran 28 career home runs, three behind the College record of 31 set by Frank Soos in 2001. Bullis then followed with his first bomb of the day.

Sophomore ace Mike Oliver raised his record to 6-0 with six effective innings, allowing three earned runs on nine hits and punching out seven batters.

“The great thing about (Oliver) is when he makes mistakes, they’re usually off the plate,” Haran said.

Iacono added a 3-for-4 performance with a triple, three RBI and three stolen bases.

Junior Mike Perinotti also got in on the action with a pinch-hit home run in the eighth inning.

Bullis leads the Lions in most offensive categories, batting .433 with 11 home runs and 50 RBI. Haran isn’t far behind, batting .429 with seven home runs and 45 RBI.

Shortly after moving up to the No. 2 spot in the national rankings on April 18, the Lions put a hurt on Messiah College 20-3. Messiah jumped out to its only lead with a first-inning run, but the College responded with 17 unanswered runs.

The Lions’ four-run first inning was keyed by a three-run home run by Haran – his second to reach the Townhouse South roof in as many days. On the day, Haran went 2-for-3 with five RBI.

“Since (Bullis) is so hot and (Iacono) is getting on in front of me, I’m seeing better pitches to hit,” Haran said.

Iacono went 3-for-5 at the plate with a triple and four runs scored. Wilson had three RBI and tallied his team-leading fourth triple.

The Lions are riding a four-game winning streak and are currently in second place heading into the final week of NJAC play. Today, the College is scheduled to play third-place William Paterson University in a match-up that will do much to determine the NJAC playoff picture.

“You’ve got to win your conference games and just take them one game at a time,” Dell said. “We have to keep winning the next game.”

The top six teams in the conference make the double-elimination NJAC tournament. After the conclusion of first-round play on May 3, tournament play shifts to Campbell’s Field in Camden.