LYNDHURST, N.J. – North Division No. 4 seed Bloomfield College scored all of its runs in the final three innings and held on for a 5-4 victory over host Felician University during the single-elimination play-in round of the 2019 Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference Baseball Championship tournament on Saturday afternoon at the Lyndhurst Recreation Complex.
Felician, the CACC South Division regular-season champion and the tournament's overall top seed, saw its season come to an end with a record of 30-21. The Golden Falcons were listed at No. 9 in the most recent NCAA Division II East Region ranking. Bloomfield (15-34-1) moves on to the event's four-team, double-elimination main draw in Waterbury, Conn., where it will next take on North No. 2 seed Dominican (N.Y.) College on May 9.
Felician supplemented its nine base hits by drawing seven walks. The Golden Falcons, however, left 10 runners on base, including seven in the last three innings.
Saturday began as a duel between starting pitchers Wilfrido Valenzuela (Paterson, N.J./Eastside), Bloomfield's freshman left-hander, and Felician junior righty Alex Schwartz (Voorhees, N.J./Eastern Regional). The sides remained scoreless after five innings, with the Bears having mustered four hits off Schwartz and the Golden Falcons three against Valenzuela.
After a perfect sixth from Schwartz, Felician broke through. Senior L.T. Struble (Hammonton, N.J./Hammonton) singled with one out, and circled around to score on Danny Healey Jr.'s (Brookhaven, Pa./Monsignor Bonner) first-pitch double down the left field line. Healey was left on second base, and it took the Bears only two pitches to draw even in the seventh. Tyree Bradley (West Orange, N.J./West Orange) drove Schwartz's initial offering into the left-center field gap for a double, and advanced to third base on an errant throw from the outfield. He scored on a first-pitch sacrifice fly from Darwin Tavarez (Garfield, N.J./Garfield).
Felician was issued a pair of two-out seventh-inning walks but could not take advantage. Bloomfield moved ahead to stay in the eighth, plating three runs. With runners on the corners and one out, a hit-and-run groundout by Jhoan Rodriguez (Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic/CAFAM) snapped the 1-1 tie. Kendon Strachan (West Hempstead, N.Y./Long Island Lutheran) delivered an RBI single, ending Schwartz's day, and the Golden Falcons handed Bloomfield a key insurance run two batters later. With runners on first and second, a batter swung over a Michael Gutierrez (Garfield, N.J./Garfield) breaking ball for strike three, but the ball bounced through the legs of the catcher. The throw to first base was wild, allowing Strachan to come home for a 4-1 Bear edge.
Golden Falcon junior Mike Martinez (Union City, N.J./Bergen Catholic) pulled a two-run single through the right side in the bottom of the eighth to bring his team within 4-3. But with the bases loaded, Bloomfield reliever Patrick Haas (Haddonfield, N.J./Haddon Heights) picked up a key out. In the ninth, Christopher Morillo (Teaneck, N.J./Teaneck) led off with a single, was sacrificed to second, stole third, and scored on a two-out hit by Khalid Legette (Teaneck, N.J./Teaneck) for a 5-3 lead. The Bears then turned to sophomore Anthony Elefante (Forked River, N.J./Lacey Township) to close the game.
With two outs and a runner on first, consecutive singles by Anthony Condito (Nutley, N.J./Nutley) and Martinez put the tying run on third base. But Elefante came up with a strikeout to end the game, marking the second time in the three-year history of the current CACC format that Felician has lost in the play-in round as the top seed.
Martinez was 2 for 4 with three RBI, and Condito and Jason Aponte (Loxahatchee, Fla./Seminole Ridge) also collected two hits each for Felician. Schwartz (8-2), who lost for the first time since Feb. 17, allowed eight hits over 7 2/3 frames. Two of his four runs were earned, and he struck out a season-high nine batters while walking none.
Anthony Maldonado (Newark, N.J./North 13th Street Tech) (4-3) pitched the seventh inning for Bloomfield and was credited with the victory. Bradley finished 3 for 4 and Legette and Strachan each had two hits in the Bears' 11-hit attack.