JERSEY CITY, N.J. (NJCUGothicKnights.com) | Junior right fielder Juan Pena (Perth Amboy, NJ/Perth Amboy) was 4-for-4 with three RBIs and sophomore right-handed pitcher Gavin Niland (Paramus, NJ/Paramus Catholic) improved to 3-0 on the season as the New Jersey City University baseball team defeated Stockton University in the nightcap of a New Jersey Athletic Conference opening weekend doubleheader on March 30 at the Thomas M. Gerrity Athletic Complex.
The opening game was a true pitcher's duel between five different arms but a seventh-inning solo home run was the difference as Stockton edged NJCU, 1-0.
NJCU, winners of nine of its last 11 games, is 9-5 overall and 1-1 in the NJAC after the opening weekend split. Stockton is 13-5 overall and 1-1 in the NJAC.
GAME 1: Stockton 1, NJCU 0
Stockton ace and senior righty Ray Hughes (Forked River, N.J.) and NJCU junior righty Ian Ambrose (Brick, NJ/Brick Memorial) were both locked in for 7.0 innings and the only run came in the top of the seventh when senior designated hitter Austin Gonella (Beachwood, N.J.) turned on an 0-2 pitch, putting it over the 375 sign in left center for his second homer of the season.
Hughes improved to 4-1 on the season, striking out nine against two walks while throwing exactly 100 pitches. He allowed five hits. Junior righty Tyler Apt (Williamstown, N.J.) earned his third save, throwing 2.0 hitless innings of relief (one strikeout, one walk).
Ambrose deserved a better fate but suffered the loss (0-1). He struck out five, walked none and gave up just one run and six hits. Senior lefty Kyle McCabe (Brick, NJ/Brick Memorial) came into the game in the eighth with none out and the bases loaded after three NJCU errors. He helped erase to Ospreys before senior righty Sean Gibney (Rutherford, NJ/Saint Mary-Rutherford) went the final 1.1 innings, striking out three of the four batters he faced.
The loss spoiled the best career effort for freshman left fielder Leo Colon (Carteret, NJ/St. Anthony (Jersey City)), who batted 3-for-3. Gonella and freshman right fielder Brendan Doherty (Middletown, N.J.) each had two hits.
HOW IT HAPPENED (GAME 1)
- In the first inning, Stockton ran out of the frame. With one out, the guests attempted a hit and run and with senior second baseman Matt Corsi (Toms River, NJ/Toms River East) covering second, a ground ball went right to him for a 4-4-3 double play.
- In the bottom of the third, Colon led off with a single, advanced to second on a wild pitch and third on an error. NJCU had three chances to drive him in but could not. Doherty led off the fourth with a single but was erased on a pickoff at first by Ambrose.
- In the bottom of the fourth, Pena singled with one out and swiped second but was stranded there on back-to-back strikeouts by Hughes who fanned six batters through four innings.
- With two outs in the top of the fifth, a throwing error allowed Stockton to place a runner on third before Ambrose fired his fourth strikeout of the game to keep it scoreless.
- In the bottom of the fifth, Colon punched a 3-2 one-out pitch through the left side for his second hit and after freshman catcher Anthony Palmisano (Colonia, NJ/Colonia) became the first Gothic Knight to be walked by Hughes, NJCU attempted a double steal but was caught at third and picked off of second base to end the threat.
- Hughes struck out all three batters he retired in the bottom of the sixth after a two-out error and he struck out nine through six innings. Stockton finally broke through in the top of the seventh on Gonella's homer—his second homer of the season
- Colon ripped his third hit of the game down the left field line with two outs in the bottom of the seventh but was again stranded.
- After Stockton loaded the bases in the eighth on three consecutive errors, McCabe, NJCU's fixer, got two outs in relief. A missed bunt on a suicide squeeze by Doherty resulted in junior second baseman Mike DeSenzo (Pompton Plains, N.J.) caught in a 1-2-5-1 rundown coming home and then Doherty went down swinging on a curve ball before Gibney struck out the final batter to end the inning and keep the deficit 1-0.
- Apt came in for Stockton and after a leadoff walk, coaxed a double play and a strikeout to end the eighth before retiring NJCU in order in the ninth to secure the win.
GAME 2: NJCU 13, Stockton 7
NJCU scored single runs in the first and third innings and plated six runs in the fourth to seize an 8-0 margin before tacking on insurance in the later innings. The Knights collected three more runs in the bottom of the sixth to push the lead to 11-2 and despite Stockton scoring five runs in the seventh and eighth innings, never seriously threatened NJCU.
Pena led the charge in the cleanup spot, batting 4-for-4 with three RBIs and two steals—his 16th and 17th of the season. Freshman first baseman Ricky Voss (Eatontown, NJ/Monmouth Regional), the two-time NJAC Rookie of the Week, hit his second two-run homer in three games to spark the six-run fourth inning. He had two RBIs and scored twice in the win.
Also for NJCU, senior center fielder Jesse Kraft (Nutley, NJ/Saint Mary-Rutherford) batted 2-for-4 with two runs and two RBIs and both senior third baseman Tom Pulcine (Hazlet, NJ/Raritan) and senior shortstop Nick LoGatto (Helmetta, NJ/Spotswood) batted 2-for-4 with two runs scored; Pulcine also stole two bases. Palmisano drew a pair of walks.
Niland opened the season 3-0 overall in his first year in an NJCU uniform, striking out five without issuing a walk in a solid 6.2 innings. He allowed just three runs and eight hits over 90 pitches before three relievers finished the game. Rookie closer John Pudder (Manalapan, NJ/Manalapan) struck out three in the final 2.1 innings.
Stockton outhit NJCU 16-14, and 12 different Ospreys had a hit. Doherty was 2-for-3 with two RBIs while sophomore second baseman Garrett DeMarrais (Monroe Township, N.J.), who came in as a defensive replacement, batted 2-for-3 with two runs. Gonella and sophomore right fielder John Perrino (Wall, N.J.) each had two hits. Freshman lefty Sean O'Rourke (Little Egg Harbor, N.J.) started and went the first 3.0 innings, taking the loss (0-1), while giving up five runs on six hits.
HOW IT HAPPENED (GAME 2)
- In the first inning, with two outs, LoGatto lined a single off of the pitcher's glove and Pena singled to right on the next pitch to put runners on the corners. Pena and LoGatto executed a delayed double steal—Pena picking off his 16th of the year at second and LoGatto zipping home for a 1-0 lead when the throw went down to second.
- In the third, Kraft reached, stole second and scored on a two-out RBI single up the middle by Pena.
- In the fourth, Corsi singled to left on the first pitch he saw and Voss unloaded on a pitch deep over the 390 section of the right-center fence for his second homer of the season and a 4-0 lead. Two throwing errors helped push across the fifth run, junior designated hitter Bryan Batista (Englewood, NJ/Cardinal Hayes (Bronx, NY)), who walked after the homer. A sacrifice fly by Kraft made it 6-0. Later in the frame, Pulcine reached on a fielder's choice, LoGatto walked and both scored on a two-run double to left center by Pena.
- A two-run double by Doherty in the fifth broke up the shutout and cut the deficit to 8-2.
- NJCU answered in the bottom of the sixth, scoring three times. A RBI single by LoGatto and a foul sac fly from Corsi accounted for the 10th and 11th runs.
- Stockton scored three in the seventh and two in the eighth off the NJCU bullpen to narrow the deficit but not fully rally. Kraft had an RBI single for NJCU in the seventh and Colon deposited an RBI double down the left field line in the eighth to cap NJCU's run production.
- Juan Pena (Perth Amboy, NJ/Perth Amboy) enter the game ranked fifth in Division III in steals per game (1.18). He extended his hitting streak to 11 games and an 11-game on-base streak.
- Tom Pulcine (Hazlet, NJ/Raritan) registered his 150th career hit at all level—66 in 53 games at NJCU and 84 in two seasons at Ocean County College.
- Gavin Niland (Paramus, NJ/Paramus Catholic) is the second NJCU pitcher in as many years to open a season with at least a 3-0 record; Anthony Carfora (Toms River, NJ/Toms River South), who did not return for his senior season after entering the police academy, was 4-0 last year.
- Pulcine and Nick LoGatto (Helmetta, NJ/Spotswood) each have an active 12-game on-base streak.
- Jesse Kraft (Nutley, NJ/Saint Mary-Rutherford) had his consecutive games on-base streak dating to the 2018 season snapped at 17 games.
- NJCU scored 10+ runs in a game for the fifth time this season.
As the calendar changes to April, NJCU will host Mount Saint Mary College (NY) on Tuesday, April 2 at 3:30 p.m. at the Gerrity Complex. While the game will not be streamed (softball hosts Kean in a doubleheader at the same time), live stats are available: https://njcugothicknights.com/sidearmstats/baseball/summary.
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