By Julia Livesey
Bases are loaded. Sophomore infielder Zach Shindler crushes a ball into left field. A wild pitch sends sophomore outfielder Mike Follet racing for home plate. Sophomore pitcher Joe Cirillo cruises through the Gwynedd Mercy University line-up. But there’s no mercy in this game.
All eyes were on the College’s baseball team as they turned heads during the home opener on Tuesday, March 1, and defeated Gwynedd Mercy, 13-0, at George Ackerman Park.
An explosive offense coupled with an errorless defense was the perfect mix to produce an impressive victory and a strong start for the team.
Lions head coach Dean Glus said the game was a complete team effort.
“The position players played great defense and the offense was very good,” Glus said. “The pitching staff threw the ball great and their location was good, allowing four hits and walking only three.”
Although the team’s performance as a whole contributed to their success, a few standout players helped lead the Lions to a surefire victory.
Shindler had an impressive day at the plate, going 4-for-4 with three singles and a triple while Cirillo tossed seven scoreless innings with only 68 pitches.
“The whole team has been working really hard to get better the past month of preseason and it really showed on Tuesday,” Shindler said. “Everyone went into the game really confident that we would succeed. I just fed off the energy we had and felt like I was going to do well.”
Following a slow first inning, Shindler opened the scoring by blasting a long triple to right center and eventually darted home on senior catcher Matt Facas’s sac fly to right field. Facas sacrificed two fly balls during the game.
A wild pitch hit senior outfielder John Rizzi while bases were loaded, carrying in another run. Junior infielder Ben Varone toddled home when a balk was called and sophomore infielder Patrick Anderson knocked a single to right field, bringing in the fifth and final run of the inning.
In the third inning, both Varone and Follet produced run-scoring singles to make it 7-0 and yet another run was tacked on in the fifth inning off of Facas’s second fly. The Lions continued to dominate by scoring two more runs in the sixth and three more in the eighth.
A sharp defense paired with near spotless pitching resulted in Cirillo giving up only three hits and facing a mere 23 batters total with 14 of those being ground ball outs.
“Throwing seven scoreless innings was a great feeling and I was happy to see that all my pitches were working well and getting a lot of ground ball outs,” Cirillo said. “The defense behind me played very well and they helped me out by making some really nice plays.”
Collectively, the team has their eyes set on one goal and will hard together in order to reach it.
“All 33 guys are focused toward the same goal of winning the (New Jersey Athletic Conference) NJACs and that gives us a winning mentality to go into games with,” Cirillo said.
Freshman pitcher Michael Fischer also had a big day by closing out a scoreless eighth inning in his first collegiate appearance.
“It was amazing to get off to a great start winning our first game,” Fischer said. “After working hard every day over the winter with the team, it was awesome to see all that hard work pay off and to come away with our first win.”
During the off-season, the team had been working tirelessly to make improvements and enhance its performance since last season.
“We gain experience from last year with the younger players and the off season weight and conditioning program will be huge for us,” said Glus.
Glus said that the team’s goal for the rest of the year is to get a little bit better each game and to work hard at the little things. The team will go face-to-face with some of the toughest teams in the conference, so players are constantly working to maintain their competitive edge.
Glus believes it is the team’s ability to come together as a group that will contribute to their success in the rest of the season.
“We talk about family every day and these guys are family,” Glus said.
The Lions (1-0) are scheduled to play Stevens Institute of Technology (3-4) on Tuesday, March 8 at George Ackerman Park.