Baseball team stays steady despite obstacles

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Anthony Fischetti at bat against Stockton

By Mak Ojutiku

From the perspective of an outsider looking in, Kean University’s baseball team is having another typical good season.

The 5th ranked Cougars currently have a 29-10 record, which seems like just another strong mark for the exceptional baseball program. If you asked a member of the team how they’re doing though, you’d get a different answer.

“If you were to ask someone not on the team, they may say we are playing pretty well,” said junior infielder Ryan Reitmeyer. “As far as the standards of our team, any player would tell you we haven’t been playing our best baseball.”

One big reason the team hasn’t been up to it’s usual standards is injuries. The Cougars have had to go deep into their depth chart to replace injured players, and because of that their starting rotation hasn’t been as static as it usually is.

One positive of the situation is that it’s given a lot of previously unheralded players the chance to step up and show what they’ve got. One such player is Matt Krupa.

Krupa, a freshman has stepped up to replace last year’s First-Team All-NJAC and All-New Jersey infielder Andy Lopez, who suffered an injury early this season. In 34 games, Krupa has 46 hits, 29 RBIs and a slugging percentage of .500.

Krupa’s stellar play got him the honor of being named the 2015 NJAC Rookie of the Year.

“Matt’s been a really good surprise stepping up,” said head coach Neil Ioviero. “He kind of got forced into it, and he’s doing really well for us.”

The Cougars have had bright spots in other areas as well. On an April 4, 11-2 win against NJAC rival Montclair, Reitmeyer went 5-for-7 with 8 RBIs and two consecutive home runs, one of which was a grand slam.

“Hitting the grand slam was awesome!” said Reitmeyer. “I have hit one in little league, but for my college career it was my first. It’s always a great feeling when you do something that helps the team win.”

Junior Matt Meleo also had reached a milestone in NJAC play. On April 11, Meleo went 6-6 hitting as the Cougars defeated Rutgers-Newark 11-7. Meleo’s performance got him in the record books, as he tied a mark previously held by two former Cougars.

“I felt really good before the game,” said Meleo. “My swing in batting practice felt good and that usually carries over come game time. Tying the Kean record was an honor, knowing the caliber of players that have come through this program. The best part is getting the win though. If the win does not happen then, to me, those hits don’t mean anything.”

While it hasn’t been easy for them, the Cougars have managed to stay afloat. The head coach of the team attributes the team’s ability to do that to their bullpen. Rich Ferguson, Vinny Zanfordino, Matt Wagner, and Chris Amato, have all been solid on the mound for the Cougars.

Ferguson recently received the Fireman of the Year award, which is given to the top reliever in NJAC.

“Those guys have pitched out of the bullpen where the starters got knocked out pretty early,” said Ioviero. “And if those guys couldn’t hold the lead and get the game under control we’d be in trouble most times. They’re ready everyday and they’ve done a really good job.”

The team has been led by seniors Sal Taromino and Chris Thielmann. Taormina’s 52 hits make him the best hitter on the team and the sixth best in NJAC. Thielmann, a pitcher, has 51 strikeouts and has pitched 66 innings, the second highest amount in NJAC.

He recently pitched a complete game shutout in a 1-0 win against 24th ranked Rowan.

“Taromino is just a really good leader he’s fearless when he plays.” said Ioviero. “He doesn’t back down. Him and Thielmann, he’s our best pitcher, they really deserve a lot of the credit.”

The regular season has just about winded down and now the Cougars are looking to to put on a good show in the postseason. The goal for this season is what is every season; to get the NCAA tournament and the World Series.

“When playoff time comes, all the older guys know that it’s time to bear down and get to work,” said Thielmann. “But I believe the younger guys are really beginning to catch on to this, so I can really see us making a big statement when it comes tourney time. From here on out, it’s a National Championship or bust.”

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