With the split, Montclair State (22-14) finished its NJAC slate at 13-5, finishing second in the standings and earned the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament which gets underway on Thursday, May 1. MSU will host No. 5 seed William Paterson at 3:30 pm while Rowan (28-10), which finished 12-6 in conference play, got the No. 4 seed and will travel to No. 3 seed The College of New Jersey also on Thursday. Following Thursday’s action, the entire tournament shifts to Riverfront Stadium in Newark for games May 3-5.
In the opener, The Profs jumped out to a 4-0 lead and led 7-5 heading into the bottom of the eighth inning when Montclair cut that deficit to run as senior rightfielder Rob Clark (Livingston, NJ / Seton Hall Prep) cracked a solo home run to left centerfield making the score, 7-6. After Rowan went down in order in the top of the ninth, Montclair began its wining rally as it loaded the bases on a single by Andrew Himmelfarb (Nyack, NY / Nyack) and walks to Michael Nunes (Hazlet, NJ / Raritan) and Lou Politan (Livingston, NJ / Livingston).
O’ Hara would strike out the next hitter for the first out bringing up Bowness. On the third pitch, O’Hara uncorked a wild pitch that went to the backstop. Catcher Robert Fox ( Ocean Township, NJ / Ocean Township) alertly flipped the ball to plate where O’Hara got a tag on a sliding Himmelfarb for the second out. With the count going full, Bowness smacked a bouncer that appeared headed toward right field, but second baseman Joe Franceschini (Toms River, NJ / Toms River East) made a diving stop. However, Franceschini’s throw was a split second late in getting Bowness for the final out. Meanwhile, Nunes scored and Politan, running all the way, easily crossed the plate to give the Red Hawks the come-from-behind, 8-7 victory.
Junior lefthander Michael Vitale ( Bayonne, NJ / Bayonne) earned the win in relief as he pitched a scoreless ninth, striking out two to improve to 4-1. O’Hara suffered the loss to fall to 6-3.
Clark was 2-for-4 with three RBI for MSU while Nunes posted a 3-for-4 contest with an RBI. Politan added two RBI in the game. Fox finished 2-for-5 with two RBI for Rowan, which got a solo home run from Garrett Mull ( Chatsworth, NJ / Lenape), who was 2-for-4. Frank Hasenauer ( Iselin, NJ/ John F. Kennedy) was 3-for-4 for the Profs.
Game number two would provide essentially the same drama, as Rowan led 9-6 after six innings, only to see Montclair chip away at the lead. Kevin Cuozzi ( Langhorne, PA / Neshaminy) had an RBI single in the seventh to make the score 9-7, but Rowan added a run in the top of the ninth on Fox’s single to centerfield.
The Red Hawks though would not go quietly as freshman catcher Mike Ercolano ( Vernon, NJ / Vernon) belted his first career homer to lead off the bottom of the ninth. Cuozzi would reach on an error around a pair of outs, but O’Hara walked pinch hitter Jeff Miller ( Wyckoff, NJ / Ramapo) and Politan singled to shortstop to load the bases brining up Bowness again. This time, O’Hara would get the best of the matchup as he caught Bowness looking with an inside fastball to nail down his sixth save of the year and the victory for the Profs.
Reliever Gary Winkler ( Glendora, NJ / Paul VI) picked up the win for Rowan as he improved to 2-0. Winkler went 3 1/3 innings allowing three hits and an unearned run with two walks and a strikeout. Enrique Gomez ( Edison, NJ / St. Joseph’s) suffered the loss as he fell to 1-1.
Eroclano had two hits for MSU as did Ed Kloepping ( Pennsville, NJ / Pennsville), who belted his sixth home run of the year. Cuozzi and Politan also had two hits apiece for the Red Hawks. John McMullin ( Woodbury, NJ / Gloucester Catholic) belted a three-run homer and finished 3-for-5 for Rowan, which got a 4-for-5 game from Fox and 3-for-5 performance from Tom Ready ( Blenheim, NJ /Triton Regional).
Montclair State will play once more before Thursday’s NJAC Tournament game. The Red Hawks will host York College (PA) at Yogi Berra Stadium On Tuesday, April 29 beginning at 3:30 pm.