College unsaved by improved pitching

While trying to erase memories of an unforgiving Arizona road trip, the Lions caught more snags in the asphalt.

“We have been struggling to get some momentum going this year but it is still early,” senior pitcher Dan Ramos said. “We have the talent to compete with any team in the country but we’ve had a hard time putting all the pieces together.”

Following a rain-out on Thursday, the College squared off against Ursinus College Saturday afternoon at Ackerman Park in what would be a long and arduous campaign.

The Lions would use five pitchers against the Bears, but would eventually fall 5-3 in 15 innings, dropping their record to 6-7-1. Sophomore Connor Henderson started the game for the College, pitching six innings with six strikeouts and three earned runs. Junior Greg Spatz, sophomore Joe Marchitelli and senior Eric Gertie combined for seven innings of scoreless baseball for the Lions before the Bears broke the 3-3 tie.

Junior Sean Flanagan suffered the eventual loss for the College, as he began the top of the 15th inning with a walk to Ursinus junior Tommy Clarke. The Bears’ outfielder came around to score on two singles to give Ursinus the 4-3 lead, and a run scored on a wild pitch would lead to the knockout blow for the Lions.

The College came into the game against Ursinus content with a strong victory against Haverford College the day before. The Lions bested the Fords, 5-4 on the strength of Ramos’ first win of the season as the senior fanned eight batters and allowed only one run over six innings.

Timely hitting by senior infielders Adam Tussey and Vince Mazzaccaro was key for the Lions as Tussey went 3-5 with an RBI while Mazzaccaro drove in a run in the third inning, giving the College a 3-0 lead and their pitcher a bit of breathing room.

Ramos stressed the importance of getting ahead early.

“There have been many games this year where we have let up a run in the first inning or the other team struck first,” he said. “When that happens it feels like you are fighting an uphill battle. The game becomes a lot easier when you are able to pitch with a lead.”

The Lions opened their current home stand with a 3-3 tie against Muhlenberg College last Wednesday. Due to the fact that Ackerman Park does not enjoy the luxury of lights, the game was called, much like a little league game, after nine innings on the grounds of darkness.

Mazzaccaro drove senior short shop Jeff Toth home in the third inning to give the Lions a 1-0 lead but a solo home run which soared over the College’s Townhouses South would pull the Mules even at one. Muhlenberg would take a 3-1 lead in the fifth but a Toth single in the bottom of the ninth tied the game at three, and the game ended there.

Toth has been an offensive powerhouse for the Lions thus far, batting .500 in 14 games for the Lions with two home runs and 15 runs batted in. Toth is an early favorite to repeat his 2008 All-America honors.

Even with Toth’s other-worldly production, the Lions have not yet hit their stride but are confident that things are coming together.

“Our pitching staff has definitely shown improvement since the season started,” Ramos said. “We have been hitting the ball well recently but have not done a great job getting those clutch hits when we need them. All of our hitters are capable of producing at this level and I look forward to seeing all of them achieve their potential.”

A fulfilling win sandwiched between an unsatisfying tie and a marathon loss has left a bad in taste in the Lions’ mouths as they try to gain momentum through the remainder of their home stand. The Lions look to bounce back with a win over Gwynedd-Mercy College, who they will host today at 3:30 p.m.

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