A breath of fresh air

After spending several weeks in barren doldrums of inconsistency, a few gusts of fresh spring air may have been all the Lions needed to right their ship.

As the College migrated north to Newark on Saturday, the Lions were met with more than just fastballs and bad attitudes. Following rain storms on Friday night, 40 mph winds whipped in from Newark Bay and swirled across New Jersey City University’s Thomas M. Gerrity Athletic Complex. The Lions needed a change of offensive strategy to combat the weather, a strategy which would bode well for them throughout the doubleheader.

“They had a good approach going into each at bat,” head coach Dean Glus said. “With the winds they had to hit more ground balls and line drives and did a nice job of that.”

Along with warmer weather, the winds seemed to bring an air of change to the Lions, breathing new life into the bats of an offense that had averaged fewer than five runs in their past 10 games. With this new surge of production, the Lions punished the Gothic Knights in each game, rallying late for a 13-8 win in game one and taking control for a 17-10 victory in the night cap. The Lions improve to 11-11-1 while the Gothic Knight fall to 11-14-1.

“It just seemed as if everything really came together for the team,” sophomore third baseman Evan Surgan said. “We have been working recently in practice on taking good mental approaches to our at bats. We have all the physical talent in the world and I feel the mental aspect came around and things clicked for us.”

Freshman catcher Mike Galeotafiore led the Lions in game one, recording two doubles along with his third homerun to plate four Lions in the victory. Galeotafiore’s second double came in a six-run eighth inning which would put the Lions ahead and secure the victory for senior pitcher Dan Ramos-Dominko. The College’s pitcher was not dominant, allowing eight earned runs through seven innings but was able to pick up his second win on the year.

In game two, the Lions’ offense took charge, pummeling five Gothic Knight pitchers for 17 runs on 19 hits. The second game was called due to darkness after eight innings but stellar performances several College batters provided more than enough offense.

Galeotafiore recorded three more hits and two more RBIs while freshman first baseman James Ruzich three hits and four RBIs of his own. Junior outfielder Chris Esperon stole the show in the night cap, going 5-6 with three RBIs and two runs scored. Esperon is now batting .365 on the season with two homeruns and 15 runs driven in.

Esperon credits his teammates for his latest hot streak.

“The guys ahead of me do a great job of working the counts so I can see all of pitches that the pitcher has,” Esperon said. “Also, my teammates are getting on base more often and putting me in good situations to hit the ball and help the team be successful.”

Prior to Saturday’s doubleheader, the College found itself in Bethlehem, Pa., taking out frustrations on Moravian College. The Lions jumped out to an early 10-0 lead on the Greyhounds courtesy of homeruns by Galeotafiore and freshman outfielder Andrew Priece. The early cushion gave sophomore pitcher Connor Henderson an easy victory as he pitched eight innings in the 15-4 rout.

Esperon tallied three hits on the day and senior shortstop Jeff Toth recorded four hits to continue his onslaught at the plate. Toth is now batting an absurd .505 on the season with two homeruns and 23 RBIs.

Commenting on Toth’s production, Glus said, “He’s taken his game to another level. You can see it in his eyes and his body language that he is in a different zone right now. He’s a former All-American and if he keeps playing this way he can be All-American again. He’s also becoming a team leader.”

The Lions expect to continue their solid play as they face off against Richard Stockton College today at 3:30 p.m. before they begin their home stand against Rutgers University-Camden on Thursday at 3:30 p.m.

“This is a huge week for us, and with our hot bats we are feeling very confident as a team,” Surgan said. “Right now momentum is on our side and we are a dangerous team to handle, and with this high confidence hopefully we can keep the ball rolling and continue to turn the season around just like we have always been capable of.”

Bobby Olivier can be reached at olivier6@tcnj.edu