Déjà vu, Lions defeat Pioneers

Eric Lewis prepares to fire in a pitch. (Tom O’Dell / Photo Editor)

Just two days after the College celebrated the 20th anniversary of their magical Division III World Series run in 1991, this year’s team bested William Paterson University, the College’s opponent to get into the World Series final in ’91, 5-3 on Monday afternoon.

“In the 1991 World Series, we played Paterson eight times,” head coach Dean Glus, who was an assistant on that World Series team, said. “We beat them to go to the World Series, and that’s why (the memorial) was on (Saturday), because of that. But William Paterson is a good team, and to come out here after not playing Saturday and no playing yesterday, to get behind three runs and battle back against a very good team, the guys did a very good job today.”

The ceremony for a new plaque behind the backstop at Ackerman Park was set to happen in the middle of a doubleheader with William Paterson on Saturday, but rain pushed the game to Monday, while the ceremony still took place on Saturday.

However, the delay didn’t bother the team, especially not senior starting ace Connor Henderson, who gave up only three runs over the course of eight innings.

“That’s typical Connor Henderson,” Glus said. “Nothing really shakes him. He just goes out there and throws better and better pitches, and he’ll pick his teammates up just like his teammates will pick him up.”

Henderson gave up three runs in the second inning from errors in the field, which made the score 3-0, but shut out the Pioneers for the final six innings that he pitched.

“I just tried to get ahead. I knew that the fielders were going to make the plays behind me,” Henderson said. “You’ve just got to trust the team at that point. You’ve got to let the fielders make plays. If you start trying to do too much, and you start walking guys, then you have no shot at getting them out. (I just kept) trying to throw strikes and it worked.”

Henderson played a role that was arguably even larger than what he did on the mound in the game, huddling up the team after the rough second inning and giving a pep talk.

“I just told them that you can’t wait for the next guy to do something,” Henderson said. “You can’t wait for the guy behind you to get a hit, or make a play, or make a pitch, you have to do it yourself. You know, just be accountable, and everyone came together, and it was a huge win coming back like that.”

Sophomore third baseman Nick Cifelli helped lead a big charge in the fifth inning, when he belted a double that brought in two runs and tied the game at 3-3.

“Good teams are going to have bad innings, but it’s what you do after that,” Cifelli, who finished the game with three RBI, said. “We didn’t let up, just kept fighting and fighting and chipping runs, and finally we had that big inning.”

Cifelli and sophomore outfielder Mike Murphy, who had two hits and two runs on the day, have been the anchors in the middle of the lineup this season.

“If you look at their stats, and especially today, facing lefties, Cifelli did an excellent job hanging in against a good left-handed pitcher,” Glus said. “He got his double over the right fielder’s head, and then on the hit-and-run he executed. And Murphy has just been so consistent all year, that when you have those guys in the middle of your lineup, we’re in good shape.”

Senior closer Joe Marchitelli took over for Henderson in the ninth, notching his seventh save of the year while striking out two Pioneers. Henderson had no problem handing over the game to Marchitelli.

“I was alright with giving it over to Joe,” Henderson said. “He’s been unbelievable. He is unhittable right now; I think he has, what, seven saves? Unbelievable. He’s very good.”

The team followed their worst week of the season with arguably their best, finishing 3-0 after pitchers Sean Stewart and Eric Lewis pitched gems against Rutgers University-Camden.

“It’s very important because you don’t want to get too far behind in the conference,” Glus said. “We’re 4-5 in the conference, and we’ve got four games this weekend, and if we can get back and win three out of these four, then we’ll be right where we want to be in the conference.”