Lions move into No. 2 spot in the NJAC; College pitches to 8-3 record

A College batter drives the pitch. (Tom O'Dell/Photo Assistant)

Following stellar performances by junior pitcher Connor Henderson and sophomore first baseman James Ruzich, the Lions grabbed three New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) wins this past week, launching them to a 8-3 NJAC record, only one half-game behind Rowan University for the top spot in the conference.

“We really have benefited from tremendous pitching from our whole staff and timely hitting one through nine,” Ruzich said. “I also think we have finally come together as a team. We always knew we had enough talent to win games, but with so many new and young players, it took some time for everyone to find their roles on the team.”

Ruzich’s role on the team has become that of an offensive leader, as he gained seven RBIs and a homerun in the Lions’ 10-1 victory over Richard Stockton College on Friday and doubleheader sweep of William Paterson University on Saturday, 3-2 and 11-5. Ruzich is now batting an impressive .418 with three homeruns and 26 RBIs on the season.

“I have been working with our hitting coach on my approach at the plate, and have started to feel very comfortable,” he said. “Whenever you are comfortable while hitting it almost seems as if the game slows down and your able to see the ball very well.”

In game one of the WPU doubleheader, it was not Ruzich’s bat, but Henderson’s arm that led the College to the narrow victory. Henderson

The Lions sport dominant pitching (Tom O'Dell/Photo Assistant)

improved to 6-0 on the season and 14-1 as a Lion, as he allowed just two runs on seven hits over seven innings. Senior A.J. Adamczyk closed the game for the College, while sophomore catcher Mike Galeotafiore chipped in with three hits.

“Coach Palese, our hitting coach, talked about making adjustments, and that’s exactly what we did,” Galeotafiore said. “It is very difficult to beat an NJAC team, regardless if they have talent or not. The bottom line is, every game is a rivalry, and we made sure we got our business done on Saturday. We didn’t want to give them any sense of confidence during those two games, and we did a great job at that.”

In the second game, the Lions’ offense perked up, pounding out 11 runs on 14 hits in the contest. Galeotafiore grabbed three more hits, driving in three in the process. The sophomore currently leads the College in batting average with an impressive .438. Ruzich continued his offensive onslaught, crushing his team-leading third homerun of the season.

Ruzich was content with the team’s performance.

“It’s always great to sweep a Saturday in the NJAC no matter the opponent,” he said. “But, to do it on the road against a quality team like William Paterson helped prove to ourselves and we can play with anyone. Hopefully we can carry the success of this past weekend into the rest of the season.”

Earlier in the week, the Lions clipped the Ospreys for another important NJAC win at home.

The College improved its record to 15-13. (Tom O'Dell/Photo Assistant)

Freshman pitcher Bobby Graber gave his third strong performance, holding Stockton to just one run and six hits in seven innings. Graber has only allowed four runs in his last 24 innings pitched. Ruzich started his week off strong with three doubles and two runs batted in.

The Lions will continue in-conference play this week, taking on Kean University at home on Thursday April 22 before traveling to Stockton on Friday and then to a doubleheader with Rutgers University-Newark on Saturday.

“We need to stay focused, and keep doing what makes us a successful team,” Galeotafiore said. “We need to take the bad with the good, and like I said before, constantly make adjustments.

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