Playoff baseball is underway in the quest for the NJAC Baseball Championship as the Montclair State Red Hawks (31-9) defeated the TCNJ Lions (17-19) 3-2, Tuesday afternoon at Yogi Berra Stadium in the opening round.
The Red Hawks sent out Junior, Patrick Cuccurullo (7-4) while the Lions sent out Junior, Ben Amon (3-4).
Patrick Cuccurullo threw heat all day for the Red Hawks, relieving a ton of stress off of their bats and setting the team up for success. Cuccurullo threw ten strikeouts while only conceding three walks.
Montclair fed off of his performance early on with their lead-off Seniors, Joe Norton and Peter Cosentino getting on base early to set up Junior, Miles Feaster with a single to bring home the first run. In the third inning, Feaster was put in a similar scenario with Norton on base, he hit a sky-high sacrifice fly with plenty of hangtime to bring Norton home for an additional run.
Throughout the meat and potatoes of the game, TCNJ just couldn't create a spark. Montclair went quiet after those two runs, but their pitching was heavily relied on as the Lions were never able to have back-to-back hits that applied pressure to Montclair. In the seventh, TCNJ found a glimmer of hope. After Cuccurullo’s pitch count was approaching 100, he conceded a single and was pulled for Senior, Nick Sefick. The first at bat for Sefick, he surrendered a booming double down centerfield by Sophomore, Michael Schumacher.
Luckily, Sefick was able to escape the inning with no other run allowed, and the Red Hawks were batting from the top of the rotation. After a double by Sophomore, Jordan Jurkiewicz, and back-to-back walks on Joe Norton and Peter Cosentino, Miles Feaster was due up with two RBI’s already. Feaster hit a slider into a fielder's choice and Jurkiewicz was able to scoot home to up their cushion back to two points.
Montclair reached into their bullpen for Sophomore, Jack Haveson to save the day. While his eighth inning was clean, in the final inning, the Lions again had a glimmer of hope. Freshman, Andrew Fernandez hit a deep solo shot to left field which cut it to one but Haveson pulled out back to back strikeouts to seal the 3-2 victory for the Red Hawks.
What's Next For Montclair State and TCNJ
The Montclair State Red Hawks will enjoy their victory these next couple days as they will have until Friday to head out to Union to take on the William Patterson Pioneers (27-13). Due to Kean University hosting this weekend’s slate, the TCNJ Lions will also head out to Union early on Friday to take on the very high ranked Rowan University (30-7).