By Jessica Ganga
Nation & World Editor
The Lions had a successful week, winning three of four of their games and qualifying for the New Jersey Atlantic Conference playoffs in a thrilling, extra-innings win against Montclair State University. The team also bid their graduating seniors farewell during Senior Day, showing respect and gratitude for all the hard work they’ve done throughout their careers.
In a crucial win against Rutgers University-Newark, the Lions snapped a three-game losing streak and earned vital points in the NJAC standings on Thursday, April 23. Freshman pitcher Joe Cirillo took the mound for the College and pitched six strong innings while only giving up two runs to his opponents. Cirillo, who was recently named NJAC Rookie Pitcher of the week the previous week, is now 5-1 overall in the regular season with a 3.48 ERA.
The team got on the board early in the top of third. Junior John Rizzi had a busy inning — the outfielder walked, stole second and moved to a passed ball, eventually scoring on a base hit by junior Mark Mari. The Lions added to their score by picking up two unearned runs in the fourth to extend their lead to 3-0.
It wasn’t until the sixth inning that the team took a huge advantage over the Scarlet Knights Freshman Steve Bucci smacked his first collegiate hit to left field that scored a run. Mari hit a huge two-run double to left center, making the score a crushing 7-1 lead over RU. The Lions went on to win 9-4, with senior pitcher Ryan Carmon striking out the side in the ninth.
It was Carmon who pitched for the Lions the next day against RU on Friday, April 24. The game was also a special time for the seniors to be honored for their contributions to the team.
“I remember being recruited here, seeing the field and absolutely loving it. (I saw) seeing the shortstop position and saying ‘that’s where I want to be the next four years,’” senior Anthony Cocuzza said after the game. “It’s kind of crazy that that’s come to end.”
Cocuzza had another great game, registering three hits in five at bats making it 177 hits for his career. In the bottom of the third, he laid down a bunt that resulted in a base hit. The ball was thrown away at first, allowing Rizzi to score. Roberts hit a sacrifice fly, scoring Mari and extending the lead to 3-0.
The bottom of the sixth was the key inning of the game for the College, when the team scored five runs and batted around. Cocuzza reached second on an error by the RU catcher. Two players came around home, making the score, 7-1.
At the end of the Lions’ 11-4 win, the seven seniors were honored by their coaches, teammates, family and friends, stepping on to the field with a huge round of applause.
“I’ve absolutely loved my time here at TCNJ and playing for this program,” Cocuzza said about his four years as the starting shortstop. “I’ve really, really enjoyed it, and I made some of the best friends that I could have ever asked for and it’s like a big old family here.”
Senior first baseman Josh Limon reminisced on some special moments that he experienced while wearing the uniform for the Lions.
“There are so many good memories that come to mind. As a personal achievement, hitting my first collegiate home run and getting the silent treatment from my teammates is something I will never forget,” Limon said. “Moments like that mean the world to me, and sharing that with my team was pretty special.”
After the huge win, the Lions were ready to take on Montclair State University for a doubleheader on Saturday, April 25. The team went on to lose the second game of the day, but the first game made all the difference, allowing the team to clinch a spot in the NJAC playoffs.
The first game went to 13 innings, with Rizzi having the winning blow in the top of the 13th.
The Lions now look forward to the playoffs this week and hope to have nothing but success.
“We did what we had to do in exciting fashion to get into the playoffs. It was definitely one of the more emotional wins we have had this season,” Limon said. “Our team is so excited to get into the conference tournament and to make some noise.”