The 2022 New Jersey Athletic Conference Baseball regular season is winding down, and the Montclair State Red Hawks are currently in the middle of a tight race for first place. They came into the week having taken a hit in the standings following being swept in Stockton University's doubleheader last weekend. They took the field at home on Thursday, looking to bounce back against one of the best teams in the conference and a team they're competing against for the best possible position in the standings, the Kean University Cougars.
"You walk away from last weekend 2-2 and not one day in any season, good or bad, will define who you are and what you've accomplished to this point," said Montclair State baseball head coach Dave Lorber. "And it's important to have a quick flush of the memory of Saturday and we went. We had a really nice week of practice. We did some good things today. No game is easy. Every game is hard and we came into a really well coached team. Really talented team. I'm just really proud on Senior Day that our guys were up to the task and had a really nice day for ourselves."
Montclair State Honors Senior Players on Senior Day
Not only was this the biggest matchup of the season yet for the Red Hawks, but it was also Senior Day, as this would be Montclair State's last home game of the regular season. Therefore, the Red Hawks held a pregame ceremony where they honored seven senior players that would be playing their final regular-season game at Yogi Berra Stadium.
"I came in when I was a freshman and Joe (Norton) was a junior," said Montclair State senior first baseman Peter Cosentino. "So it's pretty crazy to me that guys like AO, Silva, Tony, Joe, they've been here through my entire baseball life here at Montclair. And to have them here to witness my day along with the other six that were coming out was awesome."
"It's great," said Lorber. "Winning on Senior Day is special for those guys. They can always remember that. There's been some special players and really great careers. Something they can remember for their lives and they certainly went out with a bang. They should be proud of not only today but all their accomplishments."
Red Hawks Bats Explode
Montclair State would take the lead early off a couple of wild pitches in the first and second innings, giving themselves a 3-0 lead. However, they would blow things open in the bottom of the third inning, scoring five total runs. Jason Moore started it off hitting a line drive down the left-field line that got stuck in the wall. It was ruled a ground-rule double, allowing one run to score. Joe Norton and Peter Cosentino followed it up with a two-run single and a two-run double, respectively, giving them an 8-0 lead.
Red Hawks left-handed ace Patrick Cuccurullo took the mound in this one, and he was once again electric. Cuccurullo pitched six innings for Montclair State, allowing just one run and striking out seven. He currently ranks fifth in the NJAC in ERA at 2.40, third in strikeouts with 72, and second in batting average against at .195.
The Montclair State offense wouldn't stop there, as the very next inning, Joe Norton ripped one down the left-field line for a bases-clearing, three-run double. Norton would finish the game going 4-for-7 with seven RBIs. The Montclair State Red Hawks offense exploded for 25 runs, their most in a single game this season, and took down Kean University 25-1.
"Last weekend was tough," said Norton. "But we just try to move on. Take it a game at a time and there's really nothing we can do about last weekend now. Just try to come out today, put in our best effort, and see what happens."
On Deck For Montclair State
The Montclair State Red Hawks currently have a 12-3 conference record and a 27-9 record overall. They sit in third place in the NJAC, trailing Kean University and Rowan University. Montclair State will wrap up its 2022 regular season with three games on the road. They'll play Kean University again on Friday, April 29, before heading to Rutgers-Camden for a doubleheader on April 30.