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TCNJ opens conference play with doubleheader sweep

March 30, 2013

Ewing, NJ … The College of New Jersey baseball team kick-started its New Jersey Athletic Conference schedule as they swept a doubleheader from New Jersey City University on Saturday afternoon in George Ackerman Park.

The Lions (8-9, 2-0 NJAC) used their bats in the opener to claim a 15-5 victory and relied on pitching and defense to capture the nightcap 3-1.

The Gothic Knights (9-8, 0-2 NJAC) held leads in the opening game and loaded the bases in the ninth of game two, but suffered a pair of setbacks on opening weekend of conference play.

Game 1:  TCNJ 15  NJCU 5

TCNJ rapped out a season-high 18 hits en route to a 15-5 victory in the opener. Senior Michael Murphy (Staten Island, NY/Staten Island Tech) had a monstrous game at the plate, driving in six runs that included a three-run home run to left-center field. Classmate Scott Kelly (West Windsor, NJ/West Windsor North) collected three hits, scored three times, stole three bases and also drove in a pair. Junior Joe Dispoto (Nutley, NJ/Nutley) finished three-for-five and scored four runs, while rookie Garen Turner (Hainesport, NJ/Rancocas Valley) collected three hits and knocked in two.

Junior Brendan Kelly (Butler, NJ/Butler) gave the Lions the pitching effort they needed in game one. He tossed seven innings and struck out six on the day. Kelly limited the Gothic Knights to five runs (one earned) on five hits and raised his record to 4-1 on the season.

Murphy lined a shot over the left fielder’s head to get things rolling in the bottom of the first. Dispoto, who had singled up the middle, raced all the way home from first to put the Lions up 1-0.

NJCU took advantage of a pair of defensive miscues by the Lions and a hit batsman to put up three runs without the luxury of a hit. A squeeze bunt by Pete Senyszyn gave the Gothic Knights a 2-1 lead and an RBI ground out from Andrew Rivera made it a two-run game.

The Lions tied the game in the fourth with two runs. Sophomore Anthony Cocuzza (Absecon, NJ/St. Augustine Prep) led the inning off with a base hit and advanced to third when Turner ripped a double down the left-field line. A sacrifice fly to left field by John Rizzi (Long Hill, NJ/Watchung Hills) plated Cocuzza before Scott Kelly smoked a line drive base hit to left field to score Turner.

Alex Weinstein and Matt Wagner both singled to get aboard in the sixth inning. With two outs in the inning, Mike Casiano laced a base hit to left field to drive in both runs. Dispoto cut down Casiano at second base trying to stretch a double. 

The Lions answered back with five in the bottom of the frame. Junior Justin Ely (Bordentown, NJ/Bordentown) delivered a two-run double down the left field line to score Kelly and Dispoto. With two on and two out, Tuner cracked a first-pitch fastball to beat the center fielder and plate two more runs.

TCNJ pulled away with two more runs in the seventh and a five-spot in the eighth to earn their first conference victory. Murphy lined his third homer of the season in the eighth.

Senior Robert Graber (Franklin Lakes, NJ/Ramapo) pitched two scoreless innings, striking out two and surrendering just one hit. Cocuzza and Michael Murray (Stewartsville, NJ/Phillipsburg) each had two hits in the game.

Game 2:  TCNJ 3  NJCU 1

For the third consecutive appearance, freshman Steven Volpe (Cherry Hill, NJ/Eastern Regional) was handed the ball to start the game, and for the third straight outing, he threw blanks for seven innings. Volpe put forth another spectacular to extend his scoreless streak to 23 innings pitched. Outs and attitude raised his mound record to 3-0 on the season.

With the game scoreless through three innings, the Gothic Knights threatened in the fourth. A base hit, walk, and hit batsman loaded the bases with one out. Volpe buckled down to field a come-backer and get the force at home, followed by a routine ground ball to first to escape the jam.

The scored remained 0-0 until TCNJ broke through with a pair of two-out runs in the sixth. Murphy stroked a single to center field and promptly stole second base. Murray grounded a base hit to the left field and Murphy slid into home just underneath the tag to tally the first run of the contest. Cocuzza followed with a base-hit to right-center to score Murray and give the Lions a 2-0 lead.

Volpe retired the NJCU hitters in order in the seventh. Battery mate Paul Searles (Holmdel, NJ/Holmdel) singled to right field to open the bottom of the frame. Rizzi advanced the runner with a sacrifice bunt and Searles later scored on an infield error to stretch the lead to 3-0.

Volpe was lifted for Graber after going seven innings, giving up four hits, one free pass, and struck out three. The competitive right-hander also fielded his position well, compiling four putouts and an assist from the mound.

Graber closed out his second game of the day, attacking hitters in the eighth and ninth innings. He struck out two and escaped a late scare to earn his first career save.

Matt Martucci had a solid day at the plate for the Gothic Knights with three hits, while Andrew Rivera registered a pair of safeties. Starting pitcher Kevin DeMauro pitched well in defeat, tossing seven innings, allowing two earned runs, and striking out four.

Murrary finished with three hits, a run scored, and a run batted in for TCNJ.

The Lions visit Widener University on Tuesday, April 2. They continue conference play opening a home-and-home series at Rutgers-Newark on Thursday, April 4 at 3:30 p.m.
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