Rowan Baseball picks up two crucial conference wins against Montclair State

Zach Grace gets ready to pitch. Grace threw a complete game shutout and struck out 12 in Rowan's Game 1 victory. Sunday, April 2, 2023. - Multimedia Editor / Lee Kotzen

The Rowan baseball team made it five straight wins on Saturday, April 8, completing a doubleheader sweep of the Montclair State University Redhawks by final scores of 6-0 and 14-1, respectively.

Exactly one week prior, Head Coach Mike Dickson and company experienced a completely opposite result, being swept by the William Paterson University Pioneers in their doubleheader on Sunday, April 2, to open up New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) play for the 2023 season.

“It was another day, another game,” Tyler Cannon said. “Baseball is a mentally straining game, so it’s important to move on from those tough losses. Just focus on one game at a time.”

While Rowan’s pitching mostly faltered against the Pioneers, the staff was absolutely dominant against the Redhawks. In game one, starter Zach Grace tossed a complete-game shutout, striking out a career-high 12 batters and allowing just four hits to advance his record to 4-0 on the season.

More of the same was on tap for game two, this time with Jake Reese getting the start on the bump for the Profs. Reese was able to pick up his first win in the brown and gold, going seven scoreless innings and striking out six.

Grace elaborated on the pitching staff’s mindset heading into the day.

“Just attack,” Grace said. “Fill up the zone, we don’t wanna give away any freebies. That’s usually when we get killed, when we let free 90s get on base. We played defense, we hit, we pitched. That’s Prof baseball, when everything clicks. That was the approach; attack the zone and let our defense do the work.”

Reese echoed his fellow starter’s mindset.

“Just pound the zone, let our fielders do the work behind us,” Reese said. “Our bats are gonna do what they do.”

For Grace and Reese personally, they were both seeking a bounce back after not being sharp against William Paterson. Grace allowed seven hits and four earned runs against the Pioneers, while Reese allowed four earned runs in just a third of an inning of work.

According to Grace, that performance was on his mind when he hit the mound against the Redhawks.

“We started off 0-2 [in conference play], so there was definitely some more fire,” Grace said. “We wanted to pick it up today, NJAC play is starting up, so we gotta play our best brand of baseball. I think today was a clear picture of what we have.”

The improvement on the rubber didn’t just keep runs off the scoreboard for Montclair State, as they also helped put runs up on the board for Rowan. Cannon claimed that when the pitching is performing at such a high level, it takes a huge weight off the shoulders of the lineup.

“No doubt about it,” Cannon said. “I think defense wins games and championships, so when a guy’s throwing strikes and we’re playing defense behind him, it kind of all just flows and it goes into the offense. We were able to feed off that.”

With the two wins, the Profs have now won five straight games, a streak that kicked off with their nine-run comeback win against Gwynedd Mercy University on Tuesday, April 4. Cannon believes that the victory sparked something special within the team.

“I think it was a reality check that there was still a lot of room for improvement, that there was still a lot of hard work that needed to be put in,” Cannon said. “Just keep improving every day, and then keep it going throughout the rest of the season.”

We are now past the halfway point of the season, which means a large majority of the Profs’ games from here on out will be conference play. According to Cannon, these games provide a different spark to the team in comparison to out-of-conference play.

“Every game is important, but obviously conference play might spark a little edge in us,” Cannon said. “Just because those are the games that matter in terms of going into the tournament. We have some big ones coming up, but I think we’re ready for it.”

Reese would agree, as he feels a difference in atmosphere out on the mound when he pitches in conference games.

“I would say there’s definitely a different type of intensity [in conference games] the second you step on the field,” Reese said. “The NJAC definitely brings a different amount of talent.”

Unfortunately, Rowan’s win streak ended at five on Tuesday evening with a road loss to Penn State Harrisburg. They will look to get back in the win column on Thursday, April 13, when they travel to The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) to face the Lions.

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