Arizona road trip burns Lions baseball

With sun-scorched necks and sweat-stained caps, the Lions’ trip to Arizona was not quite fun in the sun. Following their 11-game road trip, which spanned the duration of Spring Break, the College returned home with an uninspiring record of 5-6 as they now look ahead to their in-conference schedule.

“Our performance in Arizona has not been what we expected it to be. We had a slow start and lost some tough games. However as all good teams do we bounced back and have started to play up to our capabilities,” sophomore third baseman Evan Surgane said.

An inconsistent offense both rewarded and plagued the Lions as they battled throughout the week. Their bats created either an onslaught of scoring and run production, as they averaged more than 13 runs in their victories, or were silenced into a draught in the southwestern heat, averaging slightly more than two in their losses.

After falling in two of their first three games, the College punished Dickinson College with a 15-8 win, led by senior short stop Jeff Toth’s 5-5 performance with five runs scored and two batted in, coupled with junior infielder Ryan Anzelone’s five RBIs. Freshman catcher Mike Galeotafiore also gained a blue-and -gold memory, connecting for the first Lions four-bagger this season.

“Having the first homerun seems cool, but I’m pretty sure it messed with my swing. It’s an honor to have but all I really care about is winning,” Galeotafiore said. “Whatever it takes to win I will do, and I know our team feels the same way.”

The Lions were 2-2 and prepared to ride their latest swing of momentum through the rest of the trip but their freshest ally, their offensive surge, became their enemy. The Lions’ bats fell cold and solid pitching by senior Dan Ramos-Dominko was wasted as they dropped their next two games against Wheaton College (MA), 3-5 and 0-6.

“In Arizona we have hit some tough patches thus far losing some hard fought games to good teams,” junior outfielder Chris Esperon said. “But our team is tough and will definitely bounce back and play to the level we all know we can compete at.”

Esperon and the Lions rebounded in a big way as the bats exploded against Wheaton College (Ill.) for an 18-10 win. Esperon’s two-run homerun gave the Lions an 8-7 lead and they did not look back. Toth and senior second baseman Adam Tussey combined to go 8-10 at the plate with nine RBI’s versus the Thunder as the College recorded their largest run-total since April 5’s 20-0 smashing of New Jersey City University.

The Lions went on to win two of their next three, scoring 11 and 16 runs in their victories, but a sub-par performance would leave a sour taste in the team’s mouth. Unable to produce any runs after the second inning, the College was bested by Division II St. Cloud State University 1-8.

“Focus is the most important word I could use to describe our team’s success and failure,” Galeotafiore said. “When we focus, we achieve the goals we set out for ourselves. It is the lack of focus that we need to improve on in order to be a successful baseball team.”

As the Lions progress through the season, veteran leadership will help them gain that focus.

“Being a senior there is definitely more pressure to be a leader on the team, but this is something I have been looking forward to since my freshman year,” Ramos-Dominko said. “Luckily we have had great senior leaders in the past and I have been able to learn from them on how to lead a team through the good and bad.”

Although the early goings of their season has not gone how they would have liked, the Lions are optimistic about the trip and their season.

“Playing at such a high competition level at the very beginning of our season will in the long run be very advantageous,” Surgan said. “Playing good teams and having to play hard from the first pitch to the last in order to win will have nothing but positive effects for us in the long run. Playing at a high level day in and day becomes a necessity and starting our season against good teams helps us accomplish that.”

Bobby Olivier can be reached at olivier6@tcnj.edu.