Lions open NJAC play with split

Pitching guides College past Cougars. (Tom O’Dell / Photo Editor)

The baseball team opened conference play strong this weekend, taking one of two in a double-header with Kean University.

The team won the second of the two games by a score of 5-4, a solid victory over one of the conference’s best teams.

“It’s always important to get off to a good start in the NJAC,” head coach Dean Glus said. “When you open up with a very good team in Kean, and you can come home with a spilt, it’s always good.”

Sophomore pitcher Bobby Graber didn’t get the win in the game, but he pitched a four-run, six-inning game on the day. Graber is 2-0 on the season with a 4.88 ERA.

“I had the ability to spot my fastball on both the outside and inside corners of the plate and mix in my curveball for strikes, which kept their hitters off balance,” Graber said.

Senior closer Joe Marchitelli finished the game with two strong scoreless innings, which made the run brought in by the Lions in the ninth, in which sophomore third baseman Nick Cifelli scored on a throwing error, the game winner.

“The most important aspect was getting ahead in the game early and keeping the pressure on,” Glus said. “We have a very good bullpen and we feel if we can get into the seventh, eighth and ninth inning with the lead or tied, we feel very good about winning the game.”

Junior catcher Mike Galeotafiore, who leads the team with a .389 batting average and two home runs, came through in the second game with two RBI, and senior shortstop Jason Zegarski and Cifelli each scored twice.

“The offense was able to score four early runs, which gave us some much-needed confidence after losing the first game,” Graber said.

As solid as the second game was, the first wasn’t the Lions best game, with the team committing five errors in an 8-4 loss despite compiling more hits than Kean. Sophomore center fielder Michael Murphy came through with two more RBI to add to his team-leading 20, but the errors became too much to overcome for the team.

“It was a tough game; we outhit them but we made too many errors,” Glus said. “When you play against a very good team, you can’t make mental or physical errors and expect to win.”

The importance of winning the second game was clear to the team, since starting off 0-2 in the NJAC wouldn’t have been a good way to begin conference play, according to Graber.

“It was vital for us to win at least one game against Kean,” Graber said, “because we want to start gaining momentum and confidence as we move through conference play.”

The team is now looking to continue the week with some more strong NJAC play against tough teams from Rowan University and NJAC-leading Rutgers University-Newark.

“What we need to do is do the things that we do well everyday: hit, play defense and pitch,” Glus said. “Then we will accomplish the goals that the players have set for (the) program. In other words, if we play New Jersey baseball, we should be fine.”