Union, NJ (May 8, 2016) … The College of New Jersey dropped a tight ballgame to Ramapo College, falling 6-5 in the fourth round of the 2016 New Jersey Athletic Conference Championship Tournament.
The loss eliminated the Lions (30-10) from the tourney, while the Roadrunners (32-10-1) will match up against Montclair State University in the championship game. The winner earns an automatic bid to the 2016 NCAA Division III Baseball Championship Tournament.
TCNJ will now wait for the NCAA selection committee to make its announcement on Sunday, May 15. The brackets are scheduled to be released at midnight. The Lions own a 30-10 overall record and are currently ranked second in their region.
A bid would put TCNJ in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2009. The last time they received an at-large bid was in 2008. They entered that NCAA tourney with a record of 27-10 and went 2-2 at regionals to finish 29-12 overall.
The Lions held a 5-1 lead in the game, but a two-run sixth and three-run seventh by the Roadrunners turned out to be the difference. Ramapo had only six hits in the game, but they bunched five together in those two innings. Connor Walsh and Brandon Martinez delivered in the clutch to give the Roadrunner offense just enough to squeak by.
TCNJ took an early lead when Patrick Roberts (Hillsborough, NJ/Hillsborough) singled to right-center to score John Rizzi (Long Hill, NJ/Watchung Hills) in the third. The Roadrunners matched them with a run in the fourth.
A four-run rally in the fifth put TCNJ in command at 5-1. Sophomore Zachary Shindler (Wantagh, NY/Wantagh) walked and junior Alex Christian (Milltown, NJ/Spotswood) singled through the right side. The Lions put on a double steal and the ball was thrown away at third, allowing Shindler to race home to score. A base hit by CJ Gearhart (Robbinsville, NJ/Robbinsville) put runners at first and third before sophomore Mike Follet (Marlton, NJ/Cherokee) was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
Ramapo pitchers lost the strike zone in facing their next three batters as junior Ben Varone (Marlton, NJ/Cherokee), Rizzi, and sophomore Patrick Anderson (Long Valley, NJ/West Morris Central) each drew walks on 13 total pitches. Three straight runs were forced in to stake the Lions with a four-run advantage.
The Roadrunners scratched out two runs in the sixth to close the gap to 5-3. Senior Joe DiLorenzo (West Orange, NJ/Seton Hall Prep) came on in relief of Lions’ starter Eric Teesdale (Stratford, NJ/Sterling) to get the final two outs of the inning.
A three-run seventh put Ramapo in the driver’s seat for the first time in the game. An RBI-double to left by Walsh pushed the Roadrunners ahead, 6-5.
In top of the eighth, Anderson doubled to left-center, but the Lions could not get him across home plate. Sophomore right-hander Matt Curry (Marlton, NJ/Cherokee) retired the side in order in the eighth to keep TCNJ within striking distance entering the ninth.
Roadrunner closer Jerry D’Andrea came on to pitch the final inning. He recorded a fly ball out, groundout to second, and a strikeout to secure his 10th save of the season advancing Ramapo into the championship game against Montclair State.
Gearhart and Christian both finished with two hits in the game. Teesdale limited Ramapo to three hits and two earned runs in five-plus innings.
The 30th win of the season on Saturday marked the first time the Lions have reached the 30-win plateau since 2007.