Baseball hangs with high-ranked NJAC foes

The baseball team continued its way through the tough NJAC schedule this week, taking a 3-2 record into what promises to be another tough week.

The Lions are now fourth in the NJAC. (Ashley Long / Photo Editor)

The week was highlighted by a split with No.9-ranked Rowan University, with the win in the series coming on Thursday, April 5.

The Lions jumped out to a 2-1 lead in the sixth inning, during which some savvy baserunning by junior second baseman Scott Kelly helped plate the first run of the game for the College.

Junior designated hitter Jonathan Gabriel sent the last two runs home with a two-RBI single in the seventh inning, his 10th and 11th RBIs for the season.

Sophomore pitcher Brendan Kelly secured the win in the contest, boosting him to a 3-2 record for the season with a 5.40 ERA. Senior Mike Ham closed out the game for his fifth save on the season, moving his ERA to a dominant 1.35 for the season.

As far as Kelly is concerned, the Lions can roll with any team.

“The NJAC is one the best Division III conferences in America, and we have shown that we can play with anybody,” Kelly said. “We just have to stay focused when we play teams twice. We have to keep believing in each other and everything will fall into place.”

Unfortunately that second-game bug bit the College in a road game against Rowan on Friday, when the team lost to the Profs by a score of 7-3.

The Lions then split a doubleheader with Rutgers University-Newark on Saturday, losing the first contest 10-8 before rebounding and taking a dominant 9-5 win in the second game.

Ham came on again in the ninth inning, giving up two runs but getting the Lions out of the game with a win.

“(Ham) is a phenomenal pitcher,” Kelly said. “He works hard and is that guy on the team that you know when he is pitching he’s going to get the job done. Having a great closer like Ham eases the tension knowing that he is going to get outs. Off the field, he is very cool, calm and collected, but when he is on that mound, he is a bulldog. He has four pitches in his arsenal that work effectively. Without a doubt he is the best closer in this conference.”

The team is now looking toward another tough week against NJAC opponents, first facing low-ranked Rutgers University-Camden, but then facing tops-in-the-conference William Paterson University, who boast an impressive 5-1 conference and 20-5 overall record.

Even with the tough games at the end of the week and the team looking to improve its fourth-place NJAC ranking, the team takes a firm game-to-game approach, not overlooking any one opponent in favor of an NJAC opponent.

“It is very important that we stay focused for every game this week,” Kelly said. “St. Joe’s on Tuesday is our next test and next focus. We can’t be passive against out-of-conference teams. They’re just as important and NJAC games. As far as William Paterson, they’re our last test for the week. First we have St. Joe’s, Rutgers-Camden and then William Paterson. If we take care of business against St. Joe’s and Rutgers-Camden like we should, then we will go in Paterson with momentum that will make us come out on top.”

The team returns to their home field against Rutgers-Camden on Thursday, April 12 at 3:30 p.m. before going on a three-game weekend road trip.