Baseball: Tribe plucks Hens

__College takes two of three in Delaware series__

After a five-game losing streak threatened to derail the Tribe’s midseason momentum, the squad was left searching for a performance to put the team back on track. Saturday, with CAA bottom-feeder University of Delaware in town, junior pitcher Jeremy Neustifter emerged from the bullpen to do just that, leading the College (18-10, 9-6 CAA) to a 6-2 victory to key a 2-1 series win.

p. In Friday night’s opener, senior pitcher Pete Vernon took the hill and set down the first 15 Delaware hitters as the Tribe nursed a 3-0 lead into the middle innings. Yet Vernon’s bid for perfection was broken in the top of the sixth as the Blue Hens used three singles and a hit batter to even the score before pushing across five more runs an inning later. The loss ran the squad’s losing streak to six games, leaving Head Coach Frank Leoni searching for answers.

p. Those answers arrived Saturday in the form of an impressive pitching performance by a pair of Tribe pitchers. To halt his team’s slide, Leoni sent out Neustifter in place of normal starter, sophomore Tyler Truxell. Neustifter responded brilliantly, holding Delaware to a lone earned run on four hits over five and one-third sparkling innings, before yielding to senior pitcher Pat Kantakevich. Normally one of the College’s top relievers, Neustifter was determined to make the most of his rare start.

p. “I was pretty excited. It’s a good opportunity for me to get some innings,” Neustifter said. “It’s totally different out of the bullpen, so I just tried to prepare myself the best I knew how.”

p. Despite struggling early in the count, Neustifter attacked the strike zone against the Blue Hens, producing pop-ups and ground balls to stymie Delaware. An efficient offense supported the junior; despite recording only six hits against Delaware starting pitcher Brad Miller, the Tribe pushed across six runs, utilizing a mixture of timely singles and situational hitting to take the win.

p. After Neustifter yielded a pair of third inning runs, senior catcher Tim Park tied the contest a frame later with a timely, bases-loaded double, before senior leftfielder Greg Maliniak gave the Tribe a lead it would not relinquish, plating junior first baseman Mike Sheridan on a ground ball to second base. The squad tacked on one more run in the fifth inning to fortify the lead, before Kantakevich came in to slam the door on the Blue Hens. Entering with one out and two runners on base in the sixth inning, the senior posted three and one-third scoreless innings in relief, mowing down Delaware hitters with his vicious fastball.

p. “We executed today, we put down some bunts, we hit some sacrifice flies, we did the things we needed to do to win the game,” Leoni said. “That’s the formula, especially to get out of a losing streak.”

p. A day later, the College earmed another win, riding a seventh-inning grand slam by senior designated hitter Paul Juliano to a 9-4 victory.

p. “It’s good to get back on the winning side,” Leoni said. “Hopefully, we can keep it up.”


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