The Montclair State University baseball team closes out a nail-biter against The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) with a 3-2 victory in the first round of the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Baseball Tournament.
Earlier in the regular season, the Red Hawks had a hold on the Lions in a doubleheader on Alumni Appreciation Day, where former player John Deutsch’s number was retired.
In the first game, Montclair State came back and won off a walk-off single thanks to senior infielder Peter Cosentino, and then dominated with an 8-3 win in the next game.
Head coach Dave Lorber was very proud of the team and the effort they displayed in the first playoff game of the season.
“They deserve every win they get,” Lorber said. “They know what’s riding on the season and they have high expectations for themselves. I’m just proud to watch them play every day.”
The Red Hawks played a great defensive game as they held the TCNJ Lions to only two runs scored late and kept the lead the entire game. The three combined pitchers contributed with 14 total strikeouts and just two runs scored between them.
Speaking of great defense, the Red Hawks were led by junior pitcher Patrick Cuccurullo who was in total control on the mound pitching six full innings with 10 strikeouts and only allowing one run.
“It gives us the best chance to win,” Cuccurullo said. “That’s my job, that’s my mentality going out there every time we play. I think I did a pretty good job giving us the chance to win.”
Lorber commented on Cuccurullo’s performance.
“He’s been our number one since the start of the season,” Lorber said. “He came back on short rest, I thought that was a gutsy performance from him. He battled and battled and battled, made some big pitches when he needed to. That’s what you want from your ace in game one of the playoffs.”
On the other side of the ball, junior utility player Miles Feaster was responsible for all runs scored by the Red Hawks with three RBIs on the day. Feaster helped senior infielder Joe Norton score two runs and sophomore designated hitter Jordan Jurkiewicz to score the go-ahead run.
“These are games, especially in the playoffs facing a pitcher like that , [that are not] going to be a high scoring game,” Feaster said. “Every run matters.”
Lorber praised Feaster for his heroic efforts that got the Red Hawks the win.
“That’s what [Feaster] does,” Lorber said. “He executes and does what’s best for the team and that’s what he did today.”
Cuccurullo also commended Feaster’s performance.
“He’s been so good all year,” Cuccurullo said. “He gets up to the plate and you know he’s gonna put the ball in play.”
The Red Hawks had the mentality to stay focused going into the game but have fun in the process.
“It sounds really simple but [the mindset] is just have fun and go win,” Feaster said. “That was the most energized we’ve been all year. We all know what’s at stake, every win matters.”
The Red Hawks are keeping the same mindset from today but still taking it just one game at a time.
“We understand who’s winning, who’s losing,” Cuccurullo said. “We can’t really pay attention to that. No matter who we play at [Kean University], we’re ready to go and we’re pumped up and really excited about it.”
Lorber shared the team’s mindset going forward.
“[Mindset is] the same it’s been all year,” Lorber said. “We take care of playing our very best brand of baseball. If we do that then good things are going to happen. You can never look too far ahead, you just gotta take it as it comes and play one pitch and one inning at a time.”
The team can celebrate now but will focus on what’s ahead. They look to keep moving forward with a game on Friday, May 6 against the Pioneers from William Paterson University.
In their last doubleheader back on April 21 and 22, the Red Hawks won both games, where Cosentino drove in two RBIs in game one and senior catcher Anthony Guarino scored a walk-off double in the second game. The Red Hawks will look to recreate that magic when it matters most.