LANGHORNE, PA (NJCUGothicKnights.com) | New Jersey City University squeezed a non-conference midweek matchup with Cairn University in between two New Jersey Athletic Conference doubleheaders on April 24 and behind a single-game school record for stolen bases and a closer returning from injury, snuck out an 11-10 victory. NJCU picked off a single-game school record 11 stolen bases and then hold off the Highlanders in the ninth inning behind the fifth save of the season from rookie right-handed pitcher John Pudder (Manalapan, NJ/Manalapan).
NJCU (14-16) led 11-6 before Cairn (13-19) scored four times in the bottom of the eighth to draw within a run. The Knights called for Pudder to face junior left fielder Andrew Philips (Liberty, N.Y.) with the bases loaded and Pudder was up to the task, inducing a fly out to end the eighth before working a perfect ninth.
With the win, eighth-year head coach Jerry Smith won his 128th career game, tying NJCU Hall-of-Famer Larry Babich for second place on the all-time wins list; Babich, who died on November 16, 2018, won 128 games from 1973-85.
The box score was stuffed for the Knights, with senior shortstop Nick LoGatto (Helmetta, NJ/Spotswood) stealing four bases, walking four times and scoring three times. Freshman first baseman Ricky Voss (Eatontown, NJ/Monmouth Regional) had two hits (2-for-4) and three RBI and freshman left fielder Leo Colon (Carteret, NJ/St. Anthony (Jersey City)) tallied three runs, two hits (2-for-4), two steals, and an RBI.
Senior second baseman Tom Pulcine (Hazlet, NJ/Raritan) was on base four times (three walks, one hit) and collected three steals and a run while junior right fielder Juan Pena (Perth Amboy, NJ/Perth Amboy) had another two steals (his 29th and 30th of the season), two hits (2-for-5), two runs, and an RBI. Senior center fielder Jesse Kraft (Nutley, NJ/Saint Mary-Rutherford) drove in two runs. Senior southpaw Kyle McCabe (Brick, NJ/Brick Memorial) earned his second win of the season (2-0)
The Knights took advantage of their first-ups, with a two-run single from Voss putting NJCU ahead 2-0 in the top of the first inning. A sacrifice fly from Kraft in the second, and an RBI single from freshman catcher Anthony Palmisano (Colonia, NJ/Colonia) in the third doubled the Knights' lead to 4-0.
The Highlanders would have things tied up by the end of the fourth, however, as key doubles from senior third baseman Alejandro Fernandez (San Pedro Sula, Honduras) and junior outfielder Emilio Alvarez (Clermont, FL) headlined two-run innings for Cairn in both the third and the fourth.
The response was immediate from NJCU, though, perfecting the small ball model in the top of the fifth (three steals, no hits bigger than a single) to double their run total for the game, taking an 8-4 edge.
Five more steals helped spark a three-run top of the seventh for NJCU, leaving them with an 11-6 edge, needing just six outs.
The Highlanders made things interesting in the eighth, however, seeing the first three batters reach and taking advantage of a pair of errors, four walks and two hit batters to cut the lead to just one (11-10) with two outs in the eighth before Pudder closed the door.
Freshman second baseman/shortstop Joshua Melchior (Boyertown, Pa.) was 3-for-5 with two runs. Fernandez drove in two runs (2-for-4) and Phillips was 2-for-5 with two runs. Alvarez had two RBIs. Junior shortstop/pitcher Nathan Wilson (New Hope, Pa.) was on base four times (two hits, two walks). Each team used five pitchers.
With 11 steals, NJCU broke the single-game school record of nine which has been achieved three times including once his season. On March 26 in a 7-4 win at Baruch, NJCU had nine steals. On March 28, 2007, NJCU swiped nine bags at Farmingdale State and also picked off nine at Lehman on April 11, 2006. NJCU won all three games. All four of the highest steal efforts in the 71-year program history have happened on the road with reliable data available since the 1970s.
After playing a neutral-site doubleheader on Tuesday in Union, N.J. against Montclair State, the Knights travel to back to Union for a New Jersey Athletic Conference doubleheader against Kean University (25-11, 11-3 NJAC) on Thursday, April 25. The games were originally scheduled to take place over two days, but with rain in the forecast yet again on Friday, the teams decided to bump up their matchup to a doubleheader on Thursday, with the first pitch of game one scheduled for 3:00 p.m.
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