Baseball backs into conference playoffs

Back in early March when the men’s baseball team began their season, they had one goal in mind: to make the New Jersey Athletic Conference tournament.

Edelman on the mound. (Photo courtesy of the Sports Information Desk)

Flash forward to this week and the Lions found themselves in a position where they controlled their own destiny.  Fortunately, making the NJAC tournament is based on the year as a whole and not on the final week of the regular season.  Despite struggling and losing four straight conference games to end the season, the Lions were able to build enough of a cushion early on as they sealed the sixth and final seed to qualify for the tournament.

In the non-conference game against FDU-Florham on Tuesday, March 23, the men came out strong and built a 5-1 lead after the third inning. The Lions never let their foot off the gas as they stayed steady the entire game, winning 8-5. Leading the team was senior right fielder Michael Murphy who had three hits and drove in a run.

In the following game against Rowan University on Thursday, April 25,  the Lions were in a similar situation after taking a 2-0 lead in the fifth.  The outcome was different this time however, as Owl’s battled back in the final innings to win 4-2.

“They were a good team and we just let them hang around,” Murphy said.  “We had some opportunities to add to our lead, but we failed so they were in the game the whole time and when they got the lead, we couldn’t get back on top after that.”

Upset, but not discouraged, the Lions were given a chance the next day to redeem themselves against the Owls at home during Senior Day. At first it appeared that the College would reverse their luck as Murphy had his 200th career hit, making him the 11th in program history to do so.  Despite hanging tough at the beginning, an eight-run fifth inning for Ramapo was too big to overcome as the Lions fell 14-5.

We shot ourselves in the foot (in the fifth) because we made a couple of errors that led to a couple of runs,” Murphy said. “They are a good team so when they got the opportunity, they capitalized on it.”

Heading into Saturday’s doubleheader against Richard Stockton College, there was a lot of pressure riding on the Lions.  Just one game up against Rutgers University-Camden, the men knew that they were one victory away from making the tournament.

“We were confident going into the games because we knew if we played our game then we could play with anybody,” Murphy said.  “We knew what we needed to do and heading in we thought we were going to take at least one of those games that day.”

Much like the entire week, the Lions were competitive but fell short as they lost both games by the same score of 4-3.  Fortunately for the men, Camden had lost earlier that day which allowed the Lions to clinch the final playoff spot.

This Tuesday, April 30, the men will play Kean University — the top seed — in the first round of the NJAC tournament.  In this double-elimination competition, Murphy and the rest of the team knows that anything can happen.

“We are excited for the tournament,” he said. “It isn’t the way we wanted to get in but getting in is an accomplishment because it is one of the toughest conferences in the nation so we are hoping to shock the world and we will see what happens.”