Baseball Falls to WPU in NJAC Tournament

Little Falls, NJ (5/1/08) – Junior first baseman Will Courter (Roseland, NJ / West Essex) went 3-for-5 and drove in two runs while junior centerfielder John Elia (Emerson, NJ / Pascack Valley) had two hits and drove in two runs as fifth-seeded William Paterson topped No. 2 seed and local rival Montclair State, 8-6 in the opening round of the 2008 New Jersey Athletic Conference Baseball Championship Tournament at Yogi Berra Stadium on Thursday afternoon.

Sophomore Mike Guadagno ( Upper Saddle River, NJ / Northern Highlands) had three hits and an RBI for the Pioneers (23-17), who will face fourth-seeded Rowan University in Game #6 of the tournament at 6:00 pm on Friday as the remainder of the tournament shifts to Bears and Eagles Riverfront Stadium for games May 3-5. Rowan knocked off No. 3 seed The College of New Jersey 6-2 in Ewing earlier in the day.

Senior catcher Jeff Miller ( Wyckoff, NJ / Ramapo) belted a two-run homer for Montclair State, which fell to 23-15. The Red Hawks face No. 6 seed Richard Stockton in the first elimination game of the tournament on Saturday at 10:00 am.

What started out as a would-be slugfest turned into a closely-played contest over the final seven innings after the teams combined for 10 runs and 10 hits in the first two innings.

Knotted at 5-5 in the top of the fourth, William Paterson plated two runs as Courter and Guadagno were hit by pitches to open the inning. A wild pitch moved the runners up and Courter came home as Anthony Perrone ( Midland Park, NJ / Bergen Catholic) grounded out. After a pop-up, Elia came through with a two-out double scoring Guagadno as WPU went up 7-5.

Sophomore righthander Scott Zirul ( Cedar Grove, NJ / Cedar Grove) helped the lead hold up as he settled down after the first two innings. Zirul, who gutted out seven innings in a 134-pitch performance, retired 12 of 16 batters he faced over the next five frames as he allowed nine hits, walked three and struck out two.

Montclair State would cut into the deficit in the eighth as Andrew Himmelfarb ( Nyack, NY / Nyack) doubled with one out and scored as Michael Nunes ( Hazlet, NJ / Raritan) singled in the infield brining MSU within 7-6. But the Pioneers got a huge insurance run in the ninth as Courter roped a two-out single scoring Derek Koppinger (Columbia, NJ / North Warren Regional) to give William Paterson a two-run cushion.

Junior righthander Dan VandeVrede (Lincoln Park, NJ / Pequannock), who entered in the eighth inning, made the lead stand as he retired the side in order in the ninth to pick up his first save of the season.

Junior Michael Vitale ( Bayonne, NJ / Bayonne) took the loss for the Red Hawks as he fell to 4-2. Vitale entered the game in the second inning and allowed two runs and five hits in five innings of work, fanning five.

William Paterson stormed out the gate in the first inning as the Pioneers plated four runs. Guadagno gave WP as 1-0 lead four batters into the game with an RBI single and William Paterson took advantage of a throwing error for its second run. Vince Joyce ( Franklin, NJ / Wallkill Valley) added an RBI single and Elia’s base hit up the middle capped the opening inning for the Pioneers.

Montclair State countered with two in its half of the first as Ed Kloepping ( Pennsville, NJ / Pennsville) singled home one run and Rob Clark ( Livingston, NJ / Seton Hall Prep) was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. A run-scoring single by Courrter in the second extended the Pioneers’ lead to 5-2, but the Red Hawks answered again with three runs to tie the game. Lou Politan (Livingston, NJ / Livingston) tripled home Nunes for the first run and Miller followed with a two-run blast over the left field fence, his fifth of the year.

Koppinger was 3-for-5 for William Paterson while Joyce had two hits as the Pioneers collected 15 in the game. Politan (3-for-4) and Kloepping (3-for-5) had three hits apiece for MSU while Nunes went 2-for-4.