LYNDHURST, N.J. – Sophomore pitcher Michael Gutierrez (Garfield, N.J./Garfield) struck out a Felician University record 16 batters during eight scoreless innings and classmate Sean Downey (Elizabeth, N.J./Elizabeth) drove in the game's only run with an eighth-inning single to lead the Golden Falcons to a 1-0 victory over the Jefferson Rams in Game 1 of the teams' Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference baseball doubleheader during a rainy Friday at the Lyndhurst Recreation Complex. Jefferson bounced back from a three-run deficit to claim Game 2, 10-4.
With Friday's split, the teams also halved their four-game CACC season series. Felician (18-16, 12-4 CACC) is ranked No. 10 in the most recent NCAA Division II East Region writers' poll.
Gutierrez (5-3) and Ram sophomore right-hander Daniel Sabath (Perkasie, Pa./Dock Mennonite) traded zeroes for most of the day's opening game. Gutierrez quickly began to pile up strikeouts, however, recording at least one in each inning. He struck out the side in the third and fifth frames and exited the seventh having tied the Golden Falcon record of 14.
In two innings, the first and fifth, Jefferson put multiple runners on base. They never had a runner reach third, however, garnering four singles, three walks and a hit batsman off the Felician righty.
Gutierrez fanned the leadoff batter in the eighth for the record, yielded an infield hit, then retired the side on a strikeout and foul pop-up having thrown 121 pitches. But his teammates had yet to solve Sabath, who was working on a five-hit shutout.
With one out in the bottom of the eighth, Danny Healey Jr. (Brookhaven, Pa./Monsignor Bonner) singled to center field. Pinch-runner Jake Stoller (Merion Station, Pa./Lower Merion) moved up on a groundout, and Downey came through, lining a single to left field to score Stoller. Another Golden Falcon sophomore, Nick Nardulli (Staten Island, N.Y./Tottenville) pitched a perfect ninth, recording two strikeouts, for his CACC-leading sixth save of the season.
Sabath (2-3) struck out seven and walked two over 7 2/3 innings. Ram junior first baseman Robert Wood (Northfield, N.J./Mainland Regional) was 2 for 2 plus two walks. Felician's Mike Martinez (Union City, N.J./Bergen Catholic) was 2 for 4 with a double.
Brian Dudzinski (Apr. 21, 2012 vs. Concordia (N.Y.) College) and Matt Blandino (Mar. 30, 2016, Game 2 vs. Caldwell University) had struck out 14 batters in a game for Felician, the record until Friday.
Game 2 was scheduled for seven innings but was called due to heavy rain and dangerous field conditions after six. Felician senior lefty Jacob Nappi (Little Silver, N.J./Red Bank Regional) departed following five stanzas with a 4-1 edge, but the Rams rallied for nine runs off the Golden Falcon bullpen in the sixth. The game was halted by the umpires after the hosts left the bases loaded without scoring in the bottom of the sixth.
Felician took a first-inning lead when leadoff man L.T. Struble (Hammonton, N.J./Hammonton) walked, stole second base, advanced on a groundout and scored on Jordan Folgers' (Moriches, N.Y./St. Anthony's) sacrifice fly. Run-scoring hits by Jasson Corniel (Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic/CENAPEC) and Struble in the second pushed the Golden Falcon edge to 3-0.
The Rams (10-21, 8-8) still trailed, 4-1, in the sixth when their first three batters drew walks. Cole Kriger (Moorpark, Calif./Moorpark) was hit by an 0-and-2 pitch to pull Jefferson to within 4-2. Following a pitching change and a strikeout, the runners moved up one bag apiece on Andres Valbuena's (Miami, Fla./Doral Academy) hit. Another punchout put Felician on the verge of escaping, but a ground ball to second base toward the middle was scored an error for a 4-4 tie. A go-ahead two-run single by Wood was the first of four consecutive Jefferson hits that followed.
Ram starter Jack Galligan (New City, N.Y./Clarkstown South) (3-0) yielded three earned runs on six hits in his five innings to garner the victory. Wood was 2 for 3 and Timothy Lubrano (Cochranville, Pa./Octorara) also drove in two runs. Struble went 2 for 3 with three stolen bases and Downey had two hits and scored twice for Felician.
The Golden Falcons play a CACC interdivisional doubleheader at Caldwell University on Saturday at noon.