Baseball rallies late to beat TCNJ in NJAC first round

Outfielder Eric Perez runs to third base in a 4-3 win over Montclair State on April 19. Rowan rallied in the ninth inning to beat TCNJ 7-6 in the first round of the NJAC tournament on April 29. -Staff photo/Louis Gormley

Outfielder Eric Perez runs to third base in a 4-3 win over Montclair
State on April 19. Rowan rallied in the ninth inning to beat TCNJ 7-6
in the first round of the NJAC tournament on April 29. -Staff
photo/Louis Gormley

The Rowan baseball team entered the final inning of play of  their first round New Jersey Athletic Conference tournament game against The College of New Jersey trailing 6-2.

The Profs went on to mount an incredible comeback, scoring five runs without recording a single out. Second baseman Mark Benak hit a bases-clearing triple to tie the ball game up, and Kevin McMenamin singled immediately after to win the game, 7-6.

“It was intense and it was an awesome feeling to do that especially for your team,” Benak said. “Having everyone pumped up knowing that we were right back in the game after being down four runs in the last inning, only having three outs to get four runs and doing it for my team like that was just an amazing feeling.”

Prior to Tuesday’s victory, the Profs lost the second game of their home doubleheader against Kean, 5-4, on April 26, thus preventing them from winning the NJAC regular season title. The Profs scored four late runs, but failed to capitalize on an opportunity in the ninth inning with two runners in scoring position.

That same day, Rutgers-Camden beat Ramapo in back-to-back games to claim the conference with a 14-4 record.

“I’m proud of every single one of these kids,” coach Juan Ranero said. “They give me 100 percent every time. Are we perfect? No. Did we make mistakes? Yes, absolutely. But I love these guys like they’re my own kids.”

Earlier in the week, the Profs won back-to-back games against conference rival The College of New Jersey. On April 24, the Profs rallied late in the ninth to overcome a one-run deficit to win 5-4 on a walk off on an error by TCNJ. The next day, an extra-innings game ended in the eleventh with Rowan scoring five runs to break a 2-2 tie, going on to win 7-2.

With two exciting wins during the week, the Profs controlled their own destiny heading into the last two conference games of 2014.

Pitcher Ryan Easterday said he was “a little too pumped up” in his performance against Kean, during which he allowed three runs in the first three innings.

“I settled down as the game went on,” Easterday said. “But I let the emotion get the best of me.”

Kean was the only team projected to finish over Rowan in the NJAC at the start of the season. They went on to keep the Profs from a conference title.

“We don’t care about that stuff,” Ranero said of the coaches’ poll. “We care about playing our best baseball. We want to be the best and we want to play our best all the time, but in that second game we really didn’t.”

Rowan will get an opportunity to avenge their loss to Kean when they play them in the second round of the NJAC tournament on Thursday, May 1.

“Having this walk off win, hopefully we can carry it into next game, and we realize that we can’t coast through games, only scoring two runs in the first eight innings definitely isn’t enough,” Benak said. “We need to have that intensity that we had in the ninth inning throughout the entire game against kean and I think we should especially knowing that its kean and that’s kind of our rival.”

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