LYNDHURST, N.J. – Felician University, which leads all NCAA Division II baseball teams in triples, received a key three-run three-bagger in each game en route to sweeping its Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference doubleheader from visiting Wilmington (Del.) University on Friday afternoon at the Lyndhurst Recreation Complex.
Wilmington (25-17, 20-8 CACC) is listed at No. 8 in the most recent NCAA Division II Committee East Region ranking. Felician, however, swept the four-game CACC South Division season series from the Wildcats this season, also earning two wins on Apr. 4 in New Castle, Del. Friday's results allowed the Golden Falcons (25-23, 23-7) to leap over Wilmington for first place in the Division, and move one victory away from clinching its top seed in the upcoming league playoffs.
Felician senior third baseman Bruce Strickland (Hazlet, N.J./Raritan) was 6 for 9 on the day. Junior first baseman Kendall Small (Dover, Del./Dover) went 5 for 8 for Wilmington.
Wilmington jumped out on top early in Game 1. The Wildcats scored two first-inning runs, using an RBI single from Small and a Frank Nigro (Stony Point, N.Y./Don Bosco Prep) sacrifice fly. Felician got a run back in the home half, when L.T. Struble (Hammonon, N.J./Hammonton) lined a one-out triple and scored on a Matt Diesel (Massapequa Park, N.Y./Massapequa) double, but otherwise struggled with Wilmington starting pitcher Zach Rumford (Wilmington, Del/Salesianum).
The visitors led, 4-1, through six innings, with Rumford (5-3) having allowed five hits. In the seventh, however, Diesel's infield hit loaded the bases with two outs. Rahul Prince (Pomona, N.Y./St. Joseph Regional) then drove a triple which scored all three runs. When the throw to third was wild, Prince came around to score to give Felician the lead for good.
The Golden Falcons tacked on two runs in the eighth on Strickland's RBI single and a throwing error. Freshman Nick Nardulli (Staten Island, N.Y./Tottenville) (3-0) pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings of relief for the victory, striking out three batters, and senior Dan Naif (Jackson, N.J./Jackson Liberty) earned a four-out save. Strickland and catcher Carlos Bermudez (Miami, Fla./Tampa Bay Christian) had three hits each for Felician. Small was 3 for 5 for the Wildcats.
Game 2, a scheduled seven-inning contest, turned on two pitches in the bottom of the first inning. After three Felician singles loaded the bases, Prince was hit by a pitch to force in a run. On a 1-and-2 pitch to Jason Aponte (Loxahatchee, Fla./Seminole Ridge), Wilmington hurler Brad Scull (Aston, Pa./Monsignor Bonner) thought he had recorded a strikeout on a check swing. The pitch was ruled a ball, however, and Aponte sent a three run triple to left field on Scull's next offering.
The Golden Falcons left Aponte stranded at third base, but the four-run first proved to be enough of a cushion for freshman righty Michael Gutierrez (Garfield, N.J./Garfield). Gutierrez (3-4) turned in a complete-game four-hitter, with three of the hits coming when the Wildcats scored their only run in the second. He struck out seven batters and walked two, throwing exactly 100 pitches (65 strikes).
Felician scored single runs in the second and sixth frames, and out-hit Wilmington, 10-4. Scull (8-2) also pitched the entire game, recording 11 strikeouts and allowing one walk.
Strickland (double) and Struble (two stolen bases) were each 3 for 4 for Felician, and Aponte finished 2 for 3 and also swiped a bag. Small picked up half of the visitors' safeties for the game.
Felician will celebrate Senior Day on Saturday while concluding the regular season by hosting Concordia (N.Y.) College. One Golden Falcon victory would secure the top seed from the CACC North for the league playoffs, and a sweep would win the division outright regardless of Wilmington's results in its last four games. Saturday's first pitch is slated for 4 p.m., with the Senior Day ceremony to be held between games.