Union, N.J. (4/26/14) – The Kean University baseball team split in their final NJAC regular season contests falling to Rowan 8-5 in the opener and edging the Profs, 5-4 in the nightcap on Saturday afternoon.
With the final outcomes of today's games, the Cougars (28-10, 12-6 NJAC) earn the #4 seed in the upcoming NJAC Tournament and will travel to face #3 Montclair State University on Tuesday in the opening round. Rutgers-Camden, selected to finish 7th in the preseason poll, earned the top seed with a 14-4 overall record. The Scarlet Raptors were selected as the league's dark horse and that selection held up. The Profs finished tied with MSU with both having a 13-5 mark in conference play, but by virtue of Camden's sweep of MSU, Rowan gets the second seed.
The Profs (28-8) jumped out to a 5-1 lead after three innings with the benefit of seven hits. Trailing 8-2 heading into the eighth, the Cougars offense got going as Matt Meleo lined a double and came around to score on an RBI single from Sal Taormina. Later in the inning with the bases loaded, senior Nick Zucchero picked up an RBI of his own with an infield single. Kean once again loaded the bases in the ninth, but were only able to scratch across a single run off a wild pitch.
Offensively Taormina was 3-for-5 while Zucchero recorded two RBI.
The nightcap was a closer affair, but it was Kean who got on the board first and held on to the lead throughout. In the top of the second, senior Joe O'Connor led off the inning with a double. A single from Taormina put runners on the corners and one batter later, Zucchero picked up his third RBI of the day with a sacrifice fly. The Cougars pushed across two in the third as senior Tyler Smarslok opened the inning with a double of his own, scoring on an RBI single from Meleo. O'Connor produced a sacrifice fly later in the frame to make it 3-0 Kean.
The Profs rallied in the bottom of the inning with two runs and two hits to close the gap to one, but Kean was able to hold them at bay and add what would be the winning run with single runs in the fifth and sixth. In the fifth it was Taormina's turn with a two-out RBI single and in the sixth it was catcher Michael Kendall who reached via a walk and later scored on a wild pitch.
Rowan rallied for two runs in the bottom of the eighth and had the tying and winning runs in scoring position in the bottom of the ninth, but starter Matt Mantione was able to work around the trouble, sealing the 5-4 win.
Mantione (5-2) allowed eight hits and four walks with three strikeouts. Offensively, Smarslok, Reitmeyer and Taormina all had three hits apiece.