A potent offense led by the electric play of their senior shortstop Jeff Toth has the Lions finding their stroke midway through the season.
“We’ve changed our approach at the plate to hit more as a team, meaning doing situational hitting, and that has helped produce a lot of runs,” junior outfielder Chris Esperon said. “Also, it seems everyone is contributing and catching fire.”
The College rattled off three wins this week on the shoulders of Toth who crushed three four-baggers in two games for the Lions and recorded nine RBIs on the week. The former All-American is now batting a stellar .509 on the year with six homeruns and 24 RBIs.
“When you are a great player and get into a zone, you are so focused and seeing the ball well. He is just doing what he is capable of,” head coach Dean Glus said.
The senior turned in his most productive performance of the season on Thursday against Rutgers University-Camden as the Lions punished the Scarlet Raptors 12-3 at home, scoring early to give sophomore pitcher Connor Henderson his fourth victory of the season. The Lions improved to 14-12-1 on the season while Henderson remains undefeated at 4-0 with an ERA of 3.56 and 38 strikeouts in 43 innings.
The Lions jumped on their opponents in the first inning, plating three runners as Toth blasted his fourth homerun of the year over the left field wall of George Ackerman Park. Toth later homered in the eighth inning once the game was already out of reach. Junior first baseman Ryan Anzelone also contributed with three hits and three RBIs on the day while freshman catcher Mike Galeotafiore and Esperon plated two runs each.
The day before, the College outlasted Richard Stockton College 12-11 away from their home field last Wednesday, rallying in the seventh inning to erase a four-run deficit. Esperon led the Lions past the Ospreys, turning in a 5-5 performance with one homerun and three RBIs.
“I’ve been seeing the ball well lately and we’ve turned things around as a team which is giving everyone confidence,” Esperon said. “When it comes to pressure I try to view the situation as an opportunity to succeed rather than fear failure because you have to have a positive frame of mind.”
Toth and senior third baseman Vince Mazzaccaro each added a pair of hits in the win as both batters claimed an RBI double in the five-run seventh inning. Freshman infielder James Ruzich also added a pair of RBIs on the day.
Lion pitchers have appreciated the surge of power at the plate.
Senior Dan Ramos-Dominko said, “When our offense performs the way they have been, it makes pitching a lot easier. Our pitchers know they can go out there and just throw strikes when we jump on teams early in the game. It takes a ton of pressure off of us as a staff and makes our job much easier.”
In their latest game, the Lions provided more power courtesy of Toth whose grand slam in the third inning propelled the College past the Roadrunners of Ramapo College 8-3 on Friday. Toth went 2-3 with four RBIs, relieving senior pitcher Dan Anderson who allowed only two runs through six innings of work.
The Lions have won five of their last six games and hope to continue their winning ways.
“The past six games have definitely started to turn our season around,” Ramos said. “We are finally above 500 and look to improve with every game we play. We have a tough schedule coming up with 10 games in the next eight days which will really show us what we are made of.”
Glus said, “As long as everyone is consistent, we should be there in the end.”
The Lions will look to continue their winning ways on the road against New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) rival Rowan University. The College will look to Toth as well as the rest of their offense to continue to pack a potent punch against the Profs.
Bobby Olivier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.