COLLEGEVILLE, Pa. (NJCUGothicKnights.com) | A moment the New Jersey City University baseball team has been building towards since 2012 when Jerry Smith took the reigns as head coach culminated in an all-time wins record for the 71-year-old program. The Gothic Knights scored six runs in the sixth inning and received a key three-run homer by junior second baseman Tom Pulcine in the seventh inning for some much-needed insurance as NJCU defeated Ursinus College, 11-9, in a non-conference historic game on May 1 at Thomas Field.
The win is the 20th of the season for NJCU (20-18)—breaking the single-season record of 19 victories set in 1986 and previously matched in 1995 and 2005.
Pulcine was 3-for-4 with three RBIs, three runs scored and his first homer as a Gothic Knight and senior first/third baseman Dan Berardi drew within three RBIs of the career century mark, driving in four runs (2-for-5, 1 run). Senior left-handed pitcher Mike Ramirez, who was the winning pitcher, batted 3-for-4 with two runs scored.
NJCU has now won 38 games in the last two seasons—also a single-season record for a two-year stretch. The Gothic Knights tie the 1986 through 1988 teams for the most wins in a three-year period (53) and the current senior class has won 70 games since 2015.
NJCU, which is eligible for the postseason and likely will qualify for the ECAC Division III Tournament, has a chance to further these marks in the coming weeks.
Other than men's basketball, baseball is the second oldest active sport at NJCU. Baseball was first offered at NJCU in 1937, discontinued until after World War II, reinstated from 1948 to 1951, and after a four-year hiatus (1952-56), returned to varsity status in 1957.
NJCU led 10-3 at the seventh inning stretch and Pulcine's homer proved decisive because the host Bears (10-22-1), members of the Centennial Conference, scored six times in the final three innings, including four tallies in the bottom of the ninth, to make the game more interesting than expected once the Knights moved in front by seven runs.
Also for NJCU, junior center fielder/shortstop Jesse Kraft was 2-for-5 (1 run, 1 RBI), junior catcher Jan Castellano batted 2-for-5 and junior pinch hitter/first baseman Mike Albunia came in off the bench to contribute two runs and two RBIs (1-for-2, 1 walk). NJCU was without junior shortstop Nick LoGatto who missed the game with an injury. NJCU outhit Ursinus, 16-14, and overcame four errors.
NJCU extended its single-season team record for doubles to 90 (previous mark, 78, in 2010) as Pulcine, Berardi, Ramirez, sophomore right fielder Juan Pena and sophomore left fielder Bill Feehan all doubled.
Ramirez began the day at designated hitter before entering the game in the fourth inning as the third of five pitchers to throw. In 1.2 innings he allowed three hits, striking out one (two walks) over 30 pitches to improve to 3-3 on the season. Junior right-handed pitcher Sean Gibney opened the game and threw the first 3.0 innings, allowing one run on three hits with a pair of strikeouts (one walk).
For host Ursinus, sophomore right fielder Dom Fiorentino (Ocean View, N.J.) batted 4-for-6 (1 run, 1 RBI), sophomore first/third baseman Alex Mumme (Montgomery, N.J.) went 3-for-5 with two runs and sophomore catcher Kyle Supran (Plainview, N.Y.) drove in two runs in two at bats (2-for-2).
Also for the Bears, junior second baseman Alex Soriano (Flushing, N.Y.) finished with two RBIs (1-for-2). Sophomore left fielder Brian Varani (Royersford, Pa.) was 2-for-4.
Ursinus used seven pitchers in the program's final game of the season. Senior righty Steve DiStefano (Hockessin, Del.) started and took the loss (1-4), working the first 5.2 innings.
HOW IT HAPPENED:
- Ursinus got on the board first in the third on an RBI single by Fiorentino before NJCU tied it in the top of the fourth on an RBI single by Kraft, scoring Ramirez who had doubled for NJCU.
- The Bears moved back on top, 3-1, scoring twice in the bottom of the fourth (three hits). After a two-out double steal put two runners in scoring position, Mumme had an infield single before a bases-loaded walk pushed across another.
- The 3-1 lead held up until the top of the sixth when NJCU batted around, sending 11 men to the plate. NJCU capitalized on an error that extended the inning and scored all six unearned runs with two outs. A two-run single through the left side by Albunia tied the game at 3-3, scoring Kraft and Ramirez. After Pulcine doubled and Pena was hit by a pitch, Berardi deposited a three-run bases-clearing double to center to build a 6-3 lead. Feehan knocked Berardi in with the third double in four at bats for the Knights and a 7-3 cushion.
- The lead reached 10-3 in the top of the seventh. A bunt single by Castellano and Albunia walk brought up Pulcine with one out and he ripped a 2-1 pitch down the right field line for the team's 17th homer of the season.
- Ursinus got a run back when NJCU committed two errors in the seventh. An RBI single by Supran in the eighth—the third hit of the frame—cut the lead to 10-5, before a key double play sprung by Berardi at third got NJCU out of the inning.
- NJCU added an insurance run in the top of the ninth. Pulcine led off with a walk, stole second, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on a sac fly by Berardi. It turns out, NJCU needed that run.
- In the bottom of the ninth, a walk, hit by pitch and RBI single sparked Ursinus. After a walk to Mumme loaded the bases with no outs, Soriano slipped a two-run single up the middle to cut the deficit to 11-8. After a fly out, Supran singled through the left side to make it 11-9 and advanced to second on the throw, placing the tying runs at second and third with two outs. A walk loaded the bases before junior righty Anthony Carfora nailed down the 20th win with a game-ending strikeout swinging as the Bears left the bases loaded.
- Head Coach Jerry Smith on the milestone: "I'm really happy for the kids because I know the hard work they put in going back to September and even years past. A lot of people had their hands in this and the time they put in in the offseason and preseason. You like to see the hard work getting reward, the work behind the scenes getting noticed."
- Head Coach Jerry Smith on the journey to become the team to break the wins record: "We spend a lot of time appreciating how hard it is. It's been difficult and we kept working and don't take anything for granted. Each year you know next year's team, no matter who is coming back, will be different and you try to adjust with each new team. Everyone works hard. My assistant coaches have worked very hard. Nick [Cesare] and Raj [Subramanian] have been here all seven years and now Otto [Andrew Otterberg] fits right in with us, and all have been loyal. If it was easy to win 20 games, we would have done it already. It was hard to work to get here and we've all been rewarded for the work put in."
- Head Coach Jerry Smith on what this means to the seniors. "What they've done in their four years is win 17, 15, 18 and 20 games. We've had 12 17+ win seasons in our 71 years and these seniors have done three of them in the last four years. I think that's pretty rewarding. We have a shot to go .500 or better in consecutive seasons. It's only been done three times in school history and not since the 1977 and 1978 teams [also 1961 through 1963]. We value alumni tradition and the hard work of everyone who has a hand in the program and they're trying to represent everyone—not just the baseball program but the school—and go about things the right way. The wins are just a by-product of things done behind the scenes."
- Four-year senior first baseman Dan Berardi on the milestone: "It's a great accomplishment for our team and also our school. We have put time and effort into everything we do and our coaches always do what they can to put us in the best position to win. I feel honored that I was part of the first 20-win season in NJCU baseball history, and I will always remember it."
- Four-year senior pitcher/outfielder/designated hitter Mike Ramirez on the milestone: "It's an honor to be a part of history. We broke a record and it's absolutely amazing. I'm so proud of how far we've come and there's many more to come."
- Four-year senior pitcher Kyle Kafer, chair of the NJCU Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, on the milestone: "Being the first team to get 20 wins in the program's history is an amazing feeling. It's truly an honor to be a part of NJCU history. Seeing the progress that the coaches and this team has made is unbelievable. The coaches devoted a lot of their time to prepare us for the season. This team is a special group and the team chemistry is outstanding. I love these guys and I am forever grateful to be a Gothic Knight."
- The game was a makeup of a twice postponed matchup (March 24 and April 29).
- Dan Berardi tied former teammate Alex Weinstein (2012-15) and Brian Veneziano (1997-00) for fourth place in school history with 97 career RBIs. He passed B.J. Fearon (1994-96, 95 RBIs) on the all-time list. Only Hall of Famer Rich Levins (1986-98, 126 RBIs), Rob Sumner (2005-08, 104 RBIs) and Andrew Niech (2013-16, 104 RBIs) have reached the 100-RBI plateau.
- Dan Berardi is now sixth in school history with 240 total bases.
- Dan Berardi is second in school history with 38 doubles (Record: Andrew Niech, 50, 2013-16).
- Dan Berardi now has 37 RBIs this season, cracking the single-season Top 10.
- Mike Ramirez moved into ninth place in school history with his 43rd career appearance.
- Mike Ramirez is now 10th in school history in innings pitched (181.1).
- Mike Ramirez is fourth in school history for pitchers with 138 strikeouts.
- Juan Pena was hit by his 12th pitch of the season, good for third in single-season history (Taylor Born, 15, in 2014; Keith Naylor, 13, in 2006).
There will be more Gothic Knight baseball on the horizon. NJCU will attempt to add a home game to its schedule to make up for its Senior Day cancelled on April 29 (rain). Additionally, NJCU is eligible for the postseason and will await those selections later this month.
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