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TCNJ Baseball ends season with winning streak and sneaks into NJAC Tournament

By Eddie Young
Sports editor

The college's baseball team ended its regular season with a three-game winning streak. They first split two games with Ramapo College, losing at home and winning on the road, and then won two games at Montclair State University to qualify for the New Jersey Athletic Conference Tournament.

The four-game stretch began with the Lions' final home game of the season, played at Trenton Thunder Ballpark. They traveled there on April 25 to face a talented Ramapo team that entered the game at 22-12. The Lions entered this game on an eight-game losing streak and were looking to get back on track from the start of the season.

The game started quite slowly, both starting players showed an impressive performance. Ramapo was the first to take the field with a sacrifice fly in the fourth inning. That was the only run senior starting pitcher Jordan Gray gave up in his outing, as he pitched the first six innings for the Lions.

Things started to get out of hand for College in the seventh inning. Coming in for Gray was Evan Frank, the freshman backup, and Ramapo was able to get to him quickly. Frank only faced four batters, but three of them got hits. All three runners scored in the seventh and Ramapo took a 4-0 lead.

The Lions managed to score a run in the bottom of the ninth on a double by junior second baseman Mike LaGravenis, but they ultimately lost the match in Trenton, 5-1, to Ramapo.

However, the college had to quickly extricate themselves from this game as they traveled to Ramapo to face them again the next day. This time they were able to score first and maintain that lead.

They scored six runs in the second inning, thanks in large part to two key errors by the Ramapo defense. They scored three more goals in the third period, giving them an early 9-0 lead that they held for the rest of the game. They ended up winning 13-5, giving junior starting pitcher Dan Merkel his fourth win of the season. LaGravenis had an excellent day from the first spot in the lineup, going 3-for-7 with four RBIs.

The college then traveled to Montclair State for a doubleheader game on April 27. Montclair State started as the sixth team in the NJAC standings with a conference record of 8-8, and the Lions finished seventh in the conference with a record of 7-8. 9. Only the top six teams participate in the NJAC Tournament, so the final spot should be decided by this doubleheader. The Lions would have to win both games or their season would be over.

Montclair State took an early lead against the Lions, jumping out to a 7-0 lead after the first three innings. Any hope of a playoff spot seemed lost for the college as Montclair looked like they were running away with it.

However, the Lions didn't back down and were able to score seven unanswered runs over the next three innings to clinch the game. However, Montclair State was able to respond immediately and tacked on three more runs in the bottom of the sixth to take a 10-7 lead.

The Lions pulled back two runs in the seventh and eventually reached with a run in the top of the ninth with their playoff hopes hanging in the balance. However, after two walks, junior designated hitter Justin Marcario managed an RBI single to make the game 10-0 and keep the season alive for the Lions.

No one was able to score in the first two extra innings, but the Lions finally managed to break through in the top of the 12th inning, scoring three runs on the back of sacrifice flies and an RBI single. Senior reliever Joe Ferrari shut out the Red Hawks in the bottom half of the inning, and the Lions eked out a thriller for a 13-10 victory, keeping their season alive.

In a game full of points, Ferrari played a big part in the victory on the mound. He struck out the pitcher in the final four innings of the game, allowing one hit and no runs. His clutch pitching gave the Lions a chance to reach the NJAC Tournament with a win in the second game of the doubleheader.

In the second game, the Lions were able to quickly overcome the peak of their previous victory. They scored seven runs in the second inning, and this time there was no seven-run comeback from the opposing team. The Lions increased their lead as the game progressed and were able to pull out an easy 14-3 win to secure the sixth seed in the NJAC Tournament.

Junior starting pitcher Jackson Malouf reigned supreme on the mound, pitching all nine innings and throwing 142 pitches on the day, matching his team's decisive playoff performance.

The Lions will now travel to Galloway, New Jersey on April 30 to face Stockton University, the NJAC's top seed, at the start of the conference's double-elimination tournament. The college is guaranteed a second game, which will take place on May 3 at Rutgers-Camden.

Anna Harden

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