With Rowan baseball heading into the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) playoff tournament as the No. 1 seed, while also winning their past nine games, the expectation for their round one game against fifth-seeded Ramapo College on Tuesday, May 3, was to go out and dominate.
Unfortunately for the Profs, a letdown was in order on Tuesday afternoon.
The Profs led in this one as much as 10-3, but the Road Runners never backed down and ultimately won the slugfest by a final score of 16-13.
Even with the Profs surrendering a big advantage, Head Coach Mike Dickson feels as though his team never let their guard down.
“I think we had 12 freebies in the game, you’re up 10-3, and they end up getting a grand slam… Which allowed momentum to swing back their way,” Coach Dickson said. “I don’t think we got complacent, I thought we continued to score runs, we just couldn’t get a shutdown inning out of any of our bullpen arms.”
Right fielders Ryan Murphy’s bat is a big reason why the Profs were able to light up the scoreboard. Murphy had an excellent day at the plate, batting a whopping five for six, belting two home runs, and driving in five RBIs in the process.
Murphy spoke on what was working for him out there at the dish.
“I was really feeling all my checkpoints in my swing,” Murphy said. “Definitely seeing the ball well out of the hand. Reading the pitcher’s mechanics and being able to see the type of pitch coming out of the hand is a key component to being successful in baseball and having the right mindset. And my mindset every at-bat was ‘I’m gonna walk up and see that pitch, and hit it is and where I see it,’ and it worked really well for me yesterday.”
Like his coach, Murphy believes the team did not get too comfortable once establishing the big lead.
“I don’t think we were really comfortable at any point,” Murphy said. “We tagged on a lot of runs, we really did. I think there were only three innings where we didn’t score, they only had two innings where they didn’t score, it was a real good slugfest.”
It is no secret that the pitching was not as sharp as it has been all season, especially for the Prof’s ace, Eli Atiya, as he went 4.2 innings, allowing seven hits, eight runs (six earned), four walks and two long balls.
“One of the key components is shutting teams down, and keeping teams out of the game, and when Eli [Atiya] was pitching, it was 10-4 at the time in the fourth or fifth inning. And it was two outs, bases loaded, and he let up that grand slam to make it 10-8. That’s the point where you need to be the pitcher, and make that pitch to get us out of there, instead of letting up that grand slam and letting up four extra runs to make it an even closer game,” Murphy said. “All we can say as a team is we’re either gonna go out and compete, or we’re gonna let them crawl back. Yesterday was really eye-opening for us.”
The bullpen didn’t fare much better, as there were eight more runs scored by Ramapo after Atiya departed. Dickson shared his thoughts on why the pitching didn’t live up to standards on Tuesday afternoon.
“Guys need to be able to throw consistent strikes,” Dickson said. “We were behind in some counts… Then, all of a sudden you give up some free bases and you give up two-run home runs and three-run home runs rather than solo home runs. We just have to do a better job of getting ahead in those counts.”
In terms of the mindset heading into the Profs’ next game against The College of New Jersey (TCNJ), Murphy knows what his team needs to do in that department in order to bounce back.
“We do talk about having a marshmallow, jelly bean, or rock mentality So when you’re a marshmallow, you put the fire up to it and it burns really easy. Jelly bean, it melts a little bit, and then a rock, does a rock burn? No. A rock goes and competes, every time he gets the opportunity,” Murphy said. “We’re moving on, going to play TCNJ on Friday, everyone’s going to have to have a rock mentality. And we just have to go compete for Rowan.”
The Profs now have their backs against the wall, facing elimination far earlier than anybody expected. We will see how they respond to this adversity when they hit the field on Friday, May 6, against TCNJ at 12 p.m.
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