The College’s baseball team knew that heading into their doubleheader against Kean University this past Saturday, April 6, they would need to play near-perfect baseball. Despite facing the nation’s sixth-best team, the Lions were confident after riding a five-game winning streak. After traveling to the Cougars home stadium, however, the College quickly fell behind, losing 13-5. In their next game, although much more competitive, the Lions lost a close one in extra innings 5-4.
“Kean has always been a pretty good team in the conference so we were expected to lose,” senior right fielder Michael Murphy said. “We were hoping to win one, but we knew it was going to be a tough game today and a battle.”
In the first game, the Lions struggled early by making several unnecessary mistakes.
“We shot ourselves in the foot and made a couple of errors and played their game for the first couple of innings,” Murphy said. “We started to come back a little bit, but they are a good team and we should’ve played our game instead of theirs.”
Trailing 11-1 by the end of the fifth, the Lions played more collective baseball as they were able to put together some runs. Murphy, sophomore shortstop Anthony Cocuzza and sophomore first baseman Josh Limon each led the Lions with two hits as they were able to narrow their deficit by the end of regulation.
Hoping to use that run for momentum, the College got off to a fast start in the second game. Pitching for the Lions was freshman pitcher Steven Volpe, who has had a sensational start to his collegiate career. Coming into the game, he matched the program record set in 1994 by Dave Dudek for 23 consecutive scoreless innings.
Despite allowing just one hit over seven innings, he gave up two runs and left the game in the eight with the Lions up 4-2, snapping his streak.
“We knew we were going to get good pitching out of Volpe, who has been playing really well,” Murphy said. “He has a lot of heart and is always getting that out for us because he has a lot of confidence right now, which is working for us.”
In the final innings when Volpe left, the Lions were unable to maintain the lead and lost 5-4 in the 10th.
“They had a couple of big hits and got a big double,” Murphy said. “They weren’t able to outhit us; they just got lucky to get the couple of hits together.”
Earlier in the week, the Lions were able to pick up three wins over Widener University and a home-and-home against Rutgers-Newark University.
Against Widener, it was the team’s freshmen stealing the show. Freshman pitcher Evan Edelman went eight innings, only giving up four runs, freshman outfielder Patrick Roberts clocked his first home run of the season, and freshman outfielder Mark Mari and freshman catcher Garen Turner each collected three hits in a 12-4 win.
In the first game against Rutgers-Newark on Thursday, April 4, senior pitcher Robert Schneider was the hero, not allowing an earned run in eight innings to guide the College to a three run victory. The next game was the following day, and it was more of the same. Senior pitcher Robert Graber went the distance, pitching all nine innings for a 9-0 shutout.
Five Lions notched RBIs, but it was Turner who came up big again. His first inning triple got the rout going by scoring senior outfielder Scott Kelly, while his two-run homer in the seventh sealed the deal.
Although the two losses were not ideal, the Lions remain in the mix and are fourth in the New Jersey Athletic Conference with a 4-2 record in conference play. After almost pulling the upset in the second game, the Lions remain optimistic against other top teams within the NJAC.
“It made us realize that we can play with pretty much anybody if we play our game and not the other teams,” Murphy said. “We were right in that second game and just one hit from really breaking it open so it’s a good thing for us to know that if we come out and control the game then we will win.”