Home SportsBaseball Scorching Hot and Unpredictable Bats (And Weather) Eliminate Red Hawks From NCAA Tournament

Scorching Hot and Unpredictable Bats (And Weather) Eliminate Red Hawks From NCAA Tournament

by Matt Orth

There is no “I” in team. Montclair State University‚Äôs baseball team played their hearts out in Chester County, Pennsylvania and did it all together.

But there are two I’s in the names of the teams that ultimately ended a fantastic season for the Red Hawks. The Ithaca College Bombers defeated Montclair State in the first postponed game 8-5, and the Immaculata University Mighty Macs did it again to the Red Hawks with a score of 9-5. The bats were going for the team, but it was not enough.

For the first game of the double-elimination style regional for Montclair State, the game was initially set for Friday at 1:30 p.m. But down in Pennsylvania, bad weather came in at the worst time, which led to multiple weather and lightning delays, and the teams restarting their warmups.

Eventually, Mother Nature became too much for either team to play a baseball game in, and after some scheduling changes, the game was eventually set for 12:30 on Saturday, May 21. And the Bombers of Ithaca College were ready to play.

“That’s an easy cop-out; [there was no impact],” head coach Dave Lorber said. “You have to fight through it and everyone’s dealing with it. It’s a part of the game and it is what it is; you just have to move forward.”

Buzz Shirley of the Bombers, arguably their best player on the team and possibly of their entire conference, the Liberty League, started off hot with a single into left field to bring in a run after a couple of walks to begin the game from junior pitcher Patrick Cuccurullo.

Cuccurullo made a great defensive play, but could not keep the Red Hawks in the game. Spencer Honda | Keystone Athletics

Junior pitcher Patrick Cuccurullo made a great defensive play, but could not keep the Red Hawks in the game.
Photo courtesy of Spencer Honda, Keystone Athletics

The Bombers then had a chance to knock in multiple runs, but the Red Hawks pitcher saved the team from a disaster with a beautiful pickup into a double play to end the inning.

Unfortunately for the Red Hawks, not much else went as smoothly as that double play at the mound. The Bombers then added two more runs in the 3rd, and even with Montclair State adding three runs to their side thanks to sophomore outfielder Michael Murphy and junior utility player Miles Feaster, the score was 5-3 heading into the bottom of the 7th.

Junior infielder Joe Gisonda hit a liner through the middle of the diamond for a base hit, and then with two outs in the game, senior infielder Peter Cosentino looked like Bryce Harper at the plate, smashing the ball far into deep left-center field to tie the game. You could hear the cheers from the live stream set up by Immaculata University.

The bats did have some positives for the Red Hawks, like Cosentino's game-tying home run late in the game against the Bombers. Spencer Honda | Keystone Athletics

The bats did have some positives for the Red Hawks, like senior infielder Peter Cosentino’s game-tying home run late in the game against the Bombers.
Photo courtesy of Spencer Honda, Keystone Athletics

“It was awesome,” Cosentino said. “[Bench] coach [John] Wells noticed that the pitcher was going through the same sequences and he told me to look for a changeup in the second pitch, and it was there as [Wells] predicted. I’m just lucky enough to put a good swing on it.”

Unfortunately, even though senior pitcher Nicholas Sefick had three strikeouts in the second and third innings, he was pulled out after a walk for sophomore pitcher Jack Haveson. Things for the Red Hawks did not go so well after that, as Haveson allowed three RBI singles to three different batters, one of them being Shirley, and the Bombers ended up winning the game by three runs.

Pitching changes had to be made during the games, and Sefick leaving for Haveson helped Ithaca increase their lead. Spencer Honda | Keystone Athletics

Pitching changes had to be made during the games, and senior pitcher Nicholas Sefick leaving for sophomore pitcher Jack Haveson helped Ithaca increase their lead.
Photo courtesy of Spencer Honda, Keystone Athletics

“You know when you get that game to 5-5, you have to find a way to scratch that over,” Lorber said. “We had the leadoff man on in the eighth, and we were not able to push that across and give us the lead, so unfortunately we did not get that done in that game.”

Ithaca was all smiles after the result of the game to advance in the NCAA Regionals. Spencer Honda | Keystone Athletics

Ithaca was all smiles after the result of the game to advance in the NCAA Regionals.
Photo courtesy of Spencer Honda, Keystone Athletics

But there was no time for the Red Hawks to think about the loss, because 35 minutes after that happened, they had to play another game against the host team, the Immaculata Mighty Macs, in order to stay alive in the NCAA Division III Tournament. In the end, it was more of the same result for Montclair State.

With no heavy rain or lightning strikes to worry about, pregame warmups went much better than before, and the Red Hawks were ready to run it back and gain some redemption in a do-or-die scenario.

The second game started the exact same way the first game started: two runs from the opposition, one through an RBI single and another through a sacrifice fly to center field.

But an interesting twist came into play for Montclair State. Immaculata’s starting pitcher Mason Keller had to leave the game due to what looked like some discomfort in his shoulder. According to Lorber though, it did not change the approach of the Red Hawks too much.

The Red Hawks unfortunately could only muster one run from sophomore outfielder and catcher Jorden Jurkiewicz off of a throwing error by the new pitcher, Ryan Crowell. Then, as it did not seem possible, things got worse for Montclair State.

A two-RBI single from Joey Sacco up the middle led to a two-run home run from another Joey, Joey Wright, and increased the Mighty Macs’ lead to 6-1. The outcome of the season was looking bleak for the team. But it’s known that they will not go down without a fight.

Murphy continued his stellar day not only with two great catches in the outfield, one in each game, but also an RBI single that brought in Cosentino. And then he and Jurkiewicz helped bring in another couple of runs to narrow the deficit.

“That’s ‘Murph,’ that’s why he’s out there,” Lorber said. “He is our best center fielder, a really good defensive player and we’re getting a little bit spoiled because of what he does out there.”

Even with the result, Michael Murphy stood out on both offense and defense throughout both games. Spencer Honda | Keystone Athletics

Even with the result, senior outfielder Michael Murphy stood out on both offense and defense throughout both games.
Photo courtesy of Spencer Honda, Keystone Athletics

And even with another RBI single from senior outfielder Andrew Ollwerther, it simply was not enough again. Wright and Giancarlo Palmieri each knocked in RBI singles to extend the lead to the eventual final score of 9-5, and with that, the Montclair State Red Hawks were eliminated from the NCAA Division III tournament, ending their 2022 campaign.

But looking past how the season ended, it is again worth noting how the Red Hawks got here: a substantial offense, clutch pitching to go alongside it and the first 30-win season in over 15 years. All from a coach who is ready to continue to be successful, even with eleven seniors leaving the team going into next season.

“My four years as a Red Hawk have been awesome,” Cosentino said. “Going from a 12 and 20-something team and last in the [New Jersey Athletic Conference] to having awesome coaches. They came in here and gave us something to look forward to and high expectations, but we definitely met them.”

Lorber is especially proud of how the Red Hawks fought from adversity this season. Spencer Honda | Keystone Athletics

Lorber is especially proud of how the Red Hawks fought from adversity this season.
Photo courtesy of Spencer Honda, Keystone Athletics

Lorber thanked everyone who helped get the team to where it is today.

“I’m really proud of these players, this program and this coaching staff, as well as our alumni,” Lorber said. “Just thankful for everybody who has had a part of it since this has not been an easy year. Their resiliency to win 31 games; it’s a special mark. I’m happy for the seniors and that they got this moment and experienced it and that they set the bar for what future Red Hawks look to strive for.”

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