The Lions clinched a spot in the NJAC tournament with a much-needed doubleheader sweep over division rival Richard Stockton College on Saturday, April 26.
The College went into the game in a three-way tie with Stockton and Rutgers-Newark University for the final playoff spot.
Before the games, Coach Dean Glus had a message for his team.
“He (said) that if we do not win both games then it could possibly be our last time on the field this season, and we did not want that to happen,” said sophomore designated hitter Garen Turner, who scored five hits and four runs.
The Lions earned four conference points, rising to fifth in the standings and eliminating Stockton from playoff contention.
Like it had done all season, the Lions’ pitching staff powered the team to victory. Junior Connor Smith tossed his fifth complete game of the season, while the team held on for a 4-3 win. Smith allowed seven hits, but limited the Ospreys to three runs, only one of which was earned.
The College jumped out to an early lead on an RBI double by Turner, who later scored on an error to giving the team a 2-0 lead.
The Ospreys battled back to tack on runs in the third and fourth innings, briefly tying the game at two.
In the Lions half of the fifth, sophomore center fielder JC Rizzi scored on a sacrifice fly to regain the lead. Later in the inning, junior first baseman Josh Limon scored Turner on a key RBI double.
With the bases loaded in the sixth inning, Smith bared down to get the final out of the inning on a called third strike to preserve the one run lead.
Smith allowed only one baserunner over the final three innings to secure his team-leading sixth win of the season.
In the second game of the doubleheader, it was senior Brendan Kelly’s arm that provided the College with another win. Kelly also pitched a complete game. He allowed only one run on nine hits while recording five strikeouts.
The Lions’ offense gave Kelly three runs to work with in the first inning, with RBIs from Limon and sophomore right fielder Pat Roberts. The team later tacked on runs in the second, fifth and sixth innings en route to a 6-1 victory.
The College played error-free baseball for the first time in 16 games this season, as they tightened up its defense.
Other seniors honored on Saturday included left fielder Joe Dispoto, catcher Paul Searles and infielder Justin Ely. All four seniors got a chance to play in the doubleheader.
The Lions will visit Rowan University in the first round of the NJAC Tournament on Tuesday, April 30 at 3:30 p.m.
The team dropped both games with Rowan earlier this week — the only times the two team faced each other this season. The Lions led 4-3 going into the ninth inning at Rowan, before surrendering two wins to give Rowan a 5-4 victory. The next day was much of the same as the Lions tied the game up in the ninth inning to send the game in extra innings. Rowan promptly scored five runs in the 11th inning to steal a 7-2 victory at Ackerman Park.
“With our bats heating up at just the right time and the depth of our starting pitching rotation, TCNJ baseball will certainly be a dangerous team in the NJAC tournament,” Turner said.