Union, NJ … A gutty performance by senior right-hander Steven Volpe (Cherry Hill, NJ/Eastern Regional) lifted The College of New Jersey baseball team to a 10-6 victory over Kean University in the second round of the New Jersey Athletic Conference championship tournament.
The second-seeded Lions (29-9) advance to the third round of the tournament, while the Cougars (24-16) have been eliminated from the conference tourney. TCNJ will either play Rowan or Montclair State University on Saturday, depending on the game between the Profs and William Paterson, which is currently tied in the 13th inning. In the winner’s bracket game today, Ramapo College defeated Montclair State University, 5-3.
Volpe was handed the ball on shortened rest to face the top-seeded team in its home ballpark. His teammates staked him with a 7-0 lead and Volpe battled for seven innings to stave off the Kean line-up and potential elimination. He went seven innings, gave up five runs, walked two, and struck out three for his seventh win of the season.
TCNJ pounded out 16 hits, including three by senior Garen Turner (Hainesport, NJ/Rancocas Valley) and a second home run of the tournament by sophomore Zachary Shindler (Wantagh, NY/Wantagh). Shindler finished with three runs batted in.
The Lions got on the board quickly in the first. John Rizzi (Long Hill, NJ/Watchung Hills) singled, stole second, and touched home plate when Patrick Roberts (Hillsborough, NJ/Hillsborough) singled to right-center.
The Cougars put two runners on in the bottom of the frame, but a 6-4-3 double play by the Lions’ defense stifled the rally.
An run-scoring single by junior Alex Christian (Milltown, NJ/Spotswood) followed by a two-run single up the middle by junior CJ Gearhart (Robbinsville, NJ/Robbinsville) increased the lead to 4-0 in the third.
TCNJ surged to a 7-0 advantage in the fifth when they pushed three runs across with two outs in the inning. Junior Ben Varone (Marlton, NJ/Cherokee) led off with a base hit, and two batters later, Roberts was hit by a pitch. Turner then doubled to left to plate Varone. Two pitches later, Shindler delivered a single to center to chase Roberts and Turner.
Volpe threw up zeroes on the board for the opening four innings. The Kean bats awakened to load the bases with nobody out in the fifth. Back-to-back singles by Shayne Fontana and Chris Amato closed the gap to 7-2, and there was still no one out in the inning. But Volpe allowed his defense to help him out as a ground ball to Shindler garnered an unassisted double play. A run scored on the play, but no further damage was inflicted.
The offense continued to produce in the seventh. Gearhart walked and sophomore Mike Follet (Marlton, NJ/Cherokee) tripled to left-center. Varone stroked a base hit to left-center and lead grew to 9-3.
Facing elimination, the Cougars refused to go easily. A run-scoring triple by Amato followed by a two-bagger from Ryan Kelley sliced the Kean deficit to 9-5.
TCNJ senior Eric Teesdale (Statford, NJ/Sterling) came on in relief of Volpe to start the eighth. He was touched for a run on two hits, but Shindler got that run back, homering on the first pitch he saw in the ninth.
Sophomore Matt Curry (Marlton, NJ/Cherokee) pitched a 1-2-3 ninth, striking out the first two batters he faced. A ball back to the mound and flip to first ended the game and allowed the Lions to continue their quest for an NJAC title.