From his position at third base, Lion Steve Czajka had a good view of Diplomat David Stahlman’s bungled pitch as it bounced up against the fence behind the home plate.
Without a second thought, Czajka took off to steal home, giving the Lions the winning run over the Diplomats in the 10th inning.
Czajka’s run finally broke the intense 2-2 tie that brought Monday’s 3-2 game against Franklin and Marshall College into overtime.
“I didn’t think that was going to happen,” Czajka said. “I saw (the bungled pitch), and it shocked me. So I just went for it.”
“We did a nice job of not panicking,” head coach Rick Dell said.
“It was a good kind of ball game for our team,” he added. “Win or lose, a game of this kind is good for us, rather than always going into the eighth or ninth inning up five runs.”
This game marks the Lions eighth win in a row. In their earlier games this week, the College had posted strong decisive leads often sealing the win way before the eigth or ninth inning.
“Coming out on top of a game of this kind will help us when we get into this situation in post seasons games,” Dell said.
The critical turning point for the Lions didn’t come until the eighth when junior shortstop Nick Stine singled in the tying run for the Lions.
Already down with two outs, Stine stepped calmly to the plate.
“Nerves are always a factor,” Stine said. “But this is a team that digs deep and pulls together to get the job done.”
Franklin and Marshall had established an early lead 1-0 and then added its next and final run at the top of the seventh when Tony Breslau, junior third basemen, crossed home plate.
This run, giving the Diplomats a 2-0 lead over the Lions, incited some debate between the College and the referee.
As Breslau approached the plate, Lions catcher Justin Gorski lunged with a quick dive, to tag him out.
Not sure if Gorski made the out or not, the crowd waited an intense few seconds before the referee decided Breslau was safe at home.
Despite such setbacks, Dell said the team gave a strong effort. He said pitchers, freshman Jonathan Mish and sophomore Vince Petrillo, especially did a good job holding the Diplomats to only two runs.
Earlier in the week, the Lions took both wins in Saturday’s doubleheader against Ramapo University’s Roadrunners.
Junior third baseman Brian Hickey’s quick dash to the home plate in the third sealed the lead over Ramapo and set the Lions off running. With a 2-1 lead in place, the Lions pounded out three more consecutive runs in the fourth, sixth and seventh.
Junior Chris Schoohoven, Stine, Czajka and freshman Mike Feaster contributed to the runs scored.
Starting off strong, the Roadrunners captured the lead scoring a run in the first with Ramon Diaz crossing the plate off an error.
But, in the bottom, outfielder Feaster answered back, and opened scoring for the Lions, tallying the first run off an error made by the Roadrunners.
Scoring remained low for the Roadrunners during the remainder of the game, as junior pitcher Mark Sanborn fanned five and let up no walks during eight innings of work.
In the earlier game on Saturday, the Roadrunners gave the Lions a bit more of a challenge, as both teams struggled for a grip on the lead throughout the innings.
The definite clunk sound of Pat Zegarski’s bat making contact with the ball, resonated throughout the field and crowd as his RBI drove in the final winning and tying runs of the game.
But, before Stine and Bryan Flynn crossed the plate off Zegarski’s hit, giving the Lions the 6-3 win over Ramapo, the College had to fight hard to keep pace with the Roadrunners.
The College started things off, taking the lead in the first 1-0. However, by the third, the Roadrunners had rallied back, tying the game and eventually taking the lead 4-2 in the fifth.
After tallying one run in the sixth, the Lions kept the crowd waiting until the eighth to establish their final hold on the lead.
While the offense of the Lions seemed to dominate Saturday’s games, the Lions added some stellar pitching performances during their Thursday 6-1 win over Rutgers University-Newark.
Sophomore pitcher Vince Petrillo tallied his first win after 6.2 innings of work with five strikeouts and only two walks.
The Lions will play at Richard Stockton College on April 24, 3:30 p.m.