By Malcolm Luck
The Lions’ 11-game winning-streak came to a jolting halt when the College suffered back-to-back losses at the hands of Rutgers-University Camden, 1-3 and 0-1 on Thursday, April 5 and Friday, April 6. The team then bounced back to trample Ramapo College in a doubleheader by scores of 11-0 and 11-2 on Sunday, April 8.
The first loss to Rutgers-Camden was the result of a brilliant pitching performance by Rutgers-Camden junior Ian Scheidemann, who earned the win with a complete game and 11 strikeouts. The College’s sophomore starting pitcher Michael Walley threw a complete game himself, but ultimately fell victim to Rutgers-Camden’s sophomore first baseman/outfielder, Matt Yanick.
Yanick, who pinch hit in the second inning, drove in all three runs for his team. He hit a sacrifice fly to center in the second inning, drove in an RBI with a single to left center in the sixth and smacked another RBI single to left in the eighth.
In the top half of the ninth, the Lions loaded the bases with no outs but only scratched away one run on an RBI walk by junior infielder Tommy McCarthy.
Just a day later, the home field advantage at George Ackerman Park yielded the same offensive drought, as the Lions managed to put up zero runs. Rutgers-Camden’s starting pitcher Carter Fichter followed up Scheidemann’s performance with a gem of his own, hurling a complete game shutout.
The Lions’ best scoring chance came in the first inning with the bases loaded, but McCarthy struck out swinging to end the threat. Rutgers-Camden took advantage in the top of the fourth, scoring on a single which ultimately ended up being the lone run of the day for both sides.
Despite the loss, junior starting pitcher Michael Fischer went the distance, striking out eight batters in nine innings.
After scoring a combined one run in two games, the Lions unloaded on conference opponent Ramapo College in their doubleheader on Sunday, April 8.
The College made its statement early, starting with a single and a stolen base by junior infielder Danny Borup. Shindler brought him home with an RBI single, and the Lions never looked back.
The College put the game out of reach in the bottom of the fifth, when it tacked on five runs before the first out of the inning was recorded. Simon, McCarthy and junior infielder Ryan Fischer all collected RBIs. When the dust settled, the Lions put up six total runs in the inning to take a commanding 9-0 lead. For the first time in a week, the starting pitcher was rewarded for an awe-inspiring performance as senior Joe Cirillo went eight innings for the win.
An early offensive statement was the theme for the second game of the doubleheader as well, displayed by RBI singles by Shindler and Lindsay to take a 2-0 lead in the bottom half of the first.
Senior pitcher Brandon Zachary responded with a shutdown inning, striking out three despite giving up a pair of walks. However, Zachary was pulled after five innings in large part due to his lack of command. He tallied six walks and one hit-by-pitch, despite only allowing one hit. Junior pitchers Dylan Crowley and senior Matt Curry combined for two earned runs over four innings of work to complete the game.
After the game, Crowley and Curry expressed the importance of mental fortitude and accountability as members of the bullpen.
“Being a relief pitcher is all about mindset and execution,” Crowley said. “We can’t go out there thinking that we’re going to mess up and we can’t dwell on previous outings. The starter may not go that deep into the game but we still have to be able to go out there when called on, execute our pitches and finish the job.”
Curry explained how the additional pressure in the late innings amplified the importance of the team maintaining its composure.
“A big part of being a relief pitcher is keeping your cool, especially coming in with guys on base or in a close game,” Curry said. “You have a whole team counting on you to do your job, which, as a reliever, is to come in and get guys out, so anything less than that is perceived as a failure.”
The Lions found themselves as the beneficiaries of another five-run inning in the eighth to thwart any comeback attempts — all of the runs were unearned.
The team is scheduled to have another busy week, as the Lions take on Stockton University at George Ackerman Park on Thursday, April 12 at 3:30 p.m. The team then travels to Galloway, New Jersey for another game against Stockton on Friday, April 13.
The Lions then conclude the week with a doubleheader against Montclair State University at George Ackerman Park on Saturday, April 14 at 11:30 a.m.