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College Softball:
Rutgers-Camden Week in Review

Monday, May 3, 2004

By Mike Ballard
RutgersCamden Sports Correspondent

The Rutgers-Camden softball team

The Rutgers-Camden softball team entered the New Jersey Athletic Conference championships as the fourth seed. They finished as the NJAC champions after going 3-1 in the three-day tournament, including two victories over top-seeded Ramapo College, the host team and the fifth-ranked club in the country. Rutgers-Camden swept through the winners' bracket against Ramapo and Montclair State, then clinched the title on the final day by splitting a pair of games against Ramapo, capturing the winner-take-all game, 1-0, behind the pitching of Michelle Schlichtig and an RBI single from Becky Johnson. It was the first NJAC title in program history, and only the second NJAC crown in Rutgers-Camden history.

SOFTBALL (32-9/12-6)

NJAC Tournament at Ramapo College
Thursday, April 29
Game 1: #4 Rutgers-Camden 4, #1 Ramapo 1
Game 2: #3 Montclair State 1, #2 Rowan 0 (8 innings)

Friday, April 30
Game 3: Ramapo College 1, Rowan University 0
Game 4: Rutgers-Camden 2, Montclair State 1
Game 5: Ramapo 2, Montclair State 1

Saturday, May 1
Game 6: Ramapo College 2, Rutgers-Camden 0
Game 7: Rutgers-Camden 1, Ramapo College 0

Rutgers-Camden wins the NJAC Championship

For the first time in program history, Rutgers-Camden is headed for the NCAA Division III Softball Championships.

The Scarlet Raptors captured the 2004 New Jersey Athletic Conference title with a 1-0 victory over top-seeded Ramapo College in the winner-take-all title game May 1 in Mahwah. Ramapo, which reached the finals out of the losers' bracket, had forced the final game with a 2-0 victory earlier in the day.

In the championship game, sophomore pitcher Michelle Schlichtig (Barrington, NJ/Haddon Heights) hurled a six-hit shutout to edge the Roadrunners’ ace, Jamie Anzaldi. Schlichtig struck out eight and didn’t walk a batter in recording her ninth shutout of the season and raising her record to 20-6.

Ramapo (33-6) was ranked No. 5 in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Division III poll.

The Raptors, who have already set a school record for victories during their 32-9 season, advance to the first round of the NCAA tournament, beginning Friday. They will play at a campus site to be determined.

The Raptors scored the only run of the title game in the third inning, following a leadoff single to center by freshman left fielder Tara Fisher (Upper Deerfield, NJ/Cumberland Regional). She continued to second base on an error in center field. Following a pair of pop ups, Schlichtig was intentionally walked. Freshman right fielder Autumn Millett (Richwood, NJ/Clearview Regional) singled to left field, loading the bases, and junior designated player Becky Johnson (Bridgeton, NJ/Cumberland Regional) singled to left, plating Fisher with the lone run.

Anzaldi (19-4) hurled a five-hitter, walking one and striking out six. Two of the Raptor hits were singles by junior shortstop Celeste Chinappi (Bellmawr, NJ/Gloucester Catholic).

The conference championship is only the second NJAC title in the history of Rutgers-Camden. The women’s basketball team won the first title during the 2002-03 season. Two members of that basketball title team also played on the softball championship squad – junior outfielder Erin James (Gloucester, NJ/Gloucester) and sophomore first baseman Megan Rulon (Sewell, NJ/Clearview Regional).

In the first game of the day, Anzaldi out-dueled Schlichtig with a three-hit shutout, walking two and striking out five. Schlichtig allowed five hits, one walk and two earned runs in six innings of work, while striking out seven.

Ramapo broke a scoreless deadlock with a fifth-inning run, following a leadoff walk to freshman first baseman Elizabeth Choma. She advanced to second on a ground out and went to third on a single by freshman designated player Virginia O’Brien. An infield single by sophomore center fielder Erica Moore plated the run.

The Roadrunners added their second run in the sixth inning following a leadoff single by freshman right fielder Michelle Rossi. She was sacrificed to second and scored on a double to center field by sophomore catcher Lisa Rizzo.

Moore went 2-for-4 with the one RBI for the Roadrunners. For the Lady Raptors, freshman second baseman Stacy Haas (Florence, NJ/Florence) went 2-for-2 and Schlichtig added the other hit.

On April 30, Schlichtig hurled a six-hitter and Chinappi went 2-for-3 with one run and one RBI as the Lady Raptors defeated Montclair State University, 2-1, in the winners’ bracket final at the NJAC tournament.

In the losers’ bracket, Ramapo eliminated Rowan University (28-11), 1-0, in the first game of the day. After Rutgers-Camden edged Montclair State, Ramapo eliminated the Red Hawks (29-10), 2-1.

Schlichtig struck out six and walked one while out-dueling Montclair State senior hurler Crystal Sweeney, who struck out three and walked three.

The Raptors took a 1-0 lead in the third inning when Chinappi singled, advanced on an error and scored on a double by freshman catcher Mo Baney (Deptford, NJ/Deptford). In the fourth inning, Fisher walked, advanced to third on a single by Haas and scored on Chinappi’s infield single.

The Red Hawks scored their lone run in the bottom of the fifth on three straight two-out singles, including an RBI single by Athanasia Totaro.

On the opening day of the conference tournament, Schlichtig hurled a six-hitter and slammed a solo home run to lift Rutgers-Camden over host Ramapo College, 4-1, April 29. In the other opening-day game, Montclair State edged Rowan, 1-0, in eight innings.

Rutgers-Camden scored a run in the second inning off Ramapo senior ace Jamie Anzaldi.. Baney drew a leadoff walk, was sacrificed to second by Chinappi and scored on a single by freshman first baseman Ashley O’Brien (Phoenixville, PA/Spring Ford).

The Raptors added a run in the fifth on a walk to Millett, a sacrifice by Fisher and an RBI single by Schlichtig.

A single by Baney, an error and an RBI single by O’Brien plated another run in the sixth inning, and Schlichtig slammed a solo homer in the seventh for the final Raptor run. It was her second home run of the season.

On the mound, Schlichtig walked two and struck out eight to raise her single-season school record to 220 strikeouts. She also set the school mark with her 23rd start of the season (she had been tied at 22 with Nicole Lum, 1995), and extended her single-season records to 22 complete games, 148.1 innings and 18 wins.

Ramapo’s lone run, an unearned tally, came in the bottom of the seventh following a two-out walk and an error. Sophomore left fielder Andrea Pastiglione broke the shutout bid with an RBI single.

Schlichtig, Baney and O’Brien each had two hits for the Scarlet Raptors, with O’Brien and Schlichtig collecting two RBIs apiece. Baney scored two runs.

BASEBALL (16-22-1/6-12)
Tues., April 27 Catholic University 4, Rutgers-Camden 0
Thurs., April 29 Rutgers University-Newark 5, Rutgers-Camden 1
Fri., April 30 Rowan University 5, Rutgers-Camden 4
Sat., May 1 Kean University 3-8, Rutgers-Camden 1-5

Tues., May 4 Delaware Valley College 7 p.m. (Senior Night)

An 0-5 week eliminated the Scarlet Raptors from the New Jersey Athletic Conference playoff chase and spoiled any chances of defending their ECAC Metro championship. Rutgers-Camden was whitewashed by Catholic University, 4-0, April 27, then lost four straight NJAC games against Rutgers-Newark (5-1, April 29 at home), Rowan (5-4, April 30 in Glassboro) and a doubleheader at Kean (3-1 and 8-5, May 1).

In the Kean doubleheader, Cougar freshman Daniel Zeffiro hurled a four-hitter, and junior southpaw Chris Eshleman worked eight strong innings in the nightcap.

Zeffiro allowed only one unearned run and no walks in raising his record to 5-1. Rutgers-Camden junior Paul DeMarco (Mullica Hill, NJ/Clearview Regional) was the tough-luck losing pitcher, working 6-1/3 innings and allowing just four hits, three walks and two earned runs. DeMarco (1-2) struck out one.

Rutgers-Camden took a 1-0 lead in the second inning when junior right fielder Dustin Roach (Marlton, NJ/Cherokee) led off with a single and advanced on a wild pitch. He scored on an infield throwing error on a grounder hit by senior designated hitter Mike Carlino (Pennsauken, NJ/Camden Catholic).

Kean took the lead with a two-run fifth inning, following a walk to sophomore designated hitter Kevin Wright and a double by junior third baseman Mark Wickersham. Junior second baseman Justin Della Volpe drove home both runs with a double.

Kean added an insurance run in the eighth on an RBI single by junior right fielder Justin Nathanson.

Roach went 2-for-4 to account for half of the Rutgers-Camden hits.

In the nightcap, Eshleman (4-3) allowed only one run over eight innings, walking none and striking out six, as Kean built an 8-1 lead and survived Rutgers-Camden’s four-run ninth inning.

The game was scoreless until the fourth inning when the Cougars exploded for five runs with two outs. Freshman first baseman Aaron Richard doubled home Wickersham, who had walked, to start the onslaught of five consecutive hits. Senior second baseman Mike O’Donnell capped the frame with a two-run double down the left field line.

The Cougars added single runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings, including a solo home run by Wickersham in the fifth.

Rutgers-Camden broke Eshleman’s shutout bid on an eighth-inning sacrifice fly by freshman third baseman Nick Lentine (Stratford, NJ/Sterling). The Raptors scored four times in the ninth off reliever Kirk Johnson, aided by a sacrifice fly from sophomore pinch-hitter Tom White (Woodbury, NJ/West Deptford), a run-scoring wild pitch and RBI singles by Lentine and freshman right fielder Ryan Maguire (Marlton, NJ/Cherokee).

Kean reliever Mike Tambini nailed down his third save by getting the final out on a pop up, stranding two runners.

For the Raptors, Lentine was 2-for-2 with two RBIs and Maguire was 2-for-3 with one RBI.

Junior reliever Matt Novella (Lindenwold, NJ/Overbrook) appeared in both games for the Scarlet Raptors, setting a new school career mark with 44 appearances. He broke the mark of 43 set by Rick Koss from 1994-97.

Junior catcher Mike Rucci hit a pair of home runs, including a game-winning two-run shot in the bottom of the seventh inning, as Rowan edged visiting Rutgers-Camden, 5-4, April 30.

With Rutgers-Camden clinging to a 4-3 lead going to the bottom of the seventh inning, Rowan’s junior right fielder Bryan Ciconte poked a one-out single up the middle. Two batters later, Rucci launched his second home run of the day, and ninth of the season, to deep left field off Raptor junior pitcher Matt Ulmer (Beverly, NJ/Holy Cross).

Ulmer (4-5) hurled a complete game, allowing 10 hits, five earned runs and two walks – one intentional. He struck out four. In working eight innings, Ulmer established a single-season program record of 80-1/3 innings, passing the old mark of 78-1/3 by Tom Gallagher in 1994.

Rowan senior John Kisty (3-0) worked 2/3 of an inning to pick up the victory. Senior Michael Sclafani worked a scoreless ninth inning for his third save.

The Raptors took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on a leadoff triple by senior center fielder Brian Murphy (Sewell, NJ/Paul VI) and a two-out infield throwing error. The triple was the 26th career three-bagger for Murphy, who is second on the all-time NCAA Division III list for career triples.

Rowan bounced back with two runs in the second inning on three hits, including RBI singles by senior center fielder Jimmy Starkey and Ciconte.

The Profs tacked on another run in the third on a long home run to right field by Rucci.

Rutgers-Camden plated an unearned run in the fourth inning and took the lead in the sixth inning with a pair of runs, including RBI grounders by senior shortstop David Petitt (Lindenwold, NJ/Overbrook) and freshman catcher Tom Terrill (Sewell, NJ/Washington Township).

Rucci’s home run spoiled the Raptors’ rally, and Rutgers-Camden collected leadoff singles in both the eighth and ninth innings, only to hit into double plays each time.

Freshman third baseman Mike Morris (Sewell, NJ/Washington Township) and senior designated hitter Mike Carlino (Pennsauken, NJ/Camden Catholic) each went 2-for-4 to pace the Scarlet Raptors’ attack. For Rowan, Rucci collected two home runs and a double in four at bats, scoring twice and driving home three runs. Ciconte went 2-for-4.

With eight putouts, Raptor sophomore first baseman Matt Calloway (Blackwood, NJ/Highland) also established a single-season program record of 325 putouts. He broke the mark of 321, set by Jeremy Poole in 2002.

A day earlier, the Raptors saw Rutgers-Newark sophomore right-hander Stephen Rice hurl a four-hitter, walking two and striking out seven, to lead the Scarlet Raiders to a 5-1 NJAC win in Camden April 29.

Rice, who hurled his team-leading fourth complete game, raised his record to 3-4. He allowed only one earned run, coming in the fifth inning on a walk, a double by sophomore catcher Nick Turekian (Cherry Hill, NJ/Cherry Hill East) and a sacrifice fly by sophomore third baseman Tyler Inkster (Audubon, NJ/Audubon).

That run tied the game at 1-1, after Rutgers-Newark had taken a one-run lead in the top of the fourth on a solo home run by freshman first baseman Bill Mercurio. It was Mercurio’s third home run of the year.

Rutgers-Newark didn’t waste any time breaking the 1-1 tie. The Scarlet Raiders scored three times in the top of the sixth inning, sparked when senior right fielder Joel Burgos was hit by a pitch and went to third on a double by senior third baseman Matt Buck. Mercurio singled to left, plating Burgos with the tie-breaking run.

Freshman designated hitter Ryan Clark hit a rocket off third baseman Inkster for an infield single, plating another run, and Mercurio eventually scored on a long foul out down the first base line by sophomore catcher Mike Marcucci.

Rutgers-Newark scored its final run in the seventh on a leadoff triple by sophomore shortstop David Sica and an RBI double by senior left fielder Jeremy Weiss.

Sophomore Tom Ford (Laurel Springs, NJ/Paul VI) worked six innings for the Scarlet Raptors. He allowed eight hits, five earned runs and two walks. Ford (2-4) struck out two.

In the opening game of the week, Catholic University senior right-hander Bernard Dennis tossed a one-hit shutout, walking seven and striking out five, to lead the Cardinals over Rutgers-Camden, 4-0, April 27.

Dennis allowed only a leadoff double by senior catcher Frank Marciano (Erial, NJ/Highland) in the third inning. Marciano was erased trying to stretch the play into a triple, and the Scarlet Raptors had only two other runners reach second base the rest of the game. Dennis raised his record to 5-1 and lowered his ERA to 2.32 with his first shutout of the season.

Dennis received all the offensive support he needed in a two-run fifth inning against Rutgers-Camden freshman starter Andy Benjes (Hollywood, MD/Leonardtown). With one out, senior shortstop Daniel Conway reached on an infield single. Junior John Schmidt plated Conway with a triple, then scored on a double by Dennis.

The Cardinals added a pair of runs in the ninth off freshman reliever Jason Ronca (Mt. Holly, NJ/Rancocas Valley). Catholic scored on a two-run single by John Schmidt, who went 3-for-4 with three RBIs and one run. Dennis went 2-for-4 with one RBI, while Conway went 2-for-5 with one run.

Benjes (0-1) worked seven strong innings in the first start of his varsity career. He allowed eight hits, one walk and the two earned runs. He struck out one.

Ronca worked the final two innings, allowing two hits, one walk and two earned runs. He struck out two.


May 1 at New Jersey Athletic Conference Championships (at Richard Stockton College)

Men: 1.The College of New Jersey, 221; 2. Rowan University, 118; 3. Kean University, 99;
4. Richard Stockton College, 96; 5. Montclair State University, 91; 6. William Paterson University, 45;
7. New Jersey City University, 42; 8. Ramapo College, 27; 9. Rutgers-Camden, 22..

Women: 1. The College of New Jersey, 273; 2. Richard Stockton College, 125; 3. New Jersey City
University, 90; 4. Kean University, 62; 5. William Paterson University, 45; 6. Rutgers-Camden, 38;
7. Rowan University, 36; 8. Montclair State University, 31; 9. Ramapo College, 16.

Rutgers-Camden School Records:
* Men’s 4x100 (Raphael Fuentes, Tyrell McGraw, Stefon Coleman, Taiwan Lamb), 43.71 (Old: 44.50 at Salisbury University Opener March 16, 2002 – Taiwan Lamb, Matt Collins, David Lee, Orville Morales)
* Raphael Fuentes, 100 M, 10.99 (Old: 11:04, Raphael Fuentes, April 24, 2004 at TCNJ Lions Invite)
* Donna-Marie Kirk, discus, 121-11 (Old: 117-2.69, Kirk, April 24, 2004 at TCNJ Lions Invite)

May 14-15 at ECAC Championships (Williams College)

Freshman Raphael Fuentes (Yonkers, NY/Haddonfield) broke his own Rutgers University-Camden school record in the 100-meter dash and helped set a school mark in the 4x100 relay as the Scarlet Raptors set three program records at the New Jersey Athletic Conference Track and Field Championships May 1 at Richard Stockton College.

Freshman Donna-Marie Kirk (Sewell, NJ/Washington Township) set the other Rutgers-Camden record, breaking her own mark in the discus.

The Rutgers-Camden women scored 38 points to finish sixth out of nine teams. The Scarlet Raptor men scored 22 points to finish ninth in the annual conference championships. The College of New Jersey won both the men’s (221 points) and women’s (273) competitions.

Fuentes finished fourth in the 100-meter dash finals in a time of 10.99, breaking the mark of 11.04 he set a week earlier, April 24, at the TCNJ Lions Invite. He also teamed with sophomore Tyrell McGraw (Hammonton, NJ/Edgewood), freshman Stefon Coleman (Penns Grove, NJ/Penns Grove) and junior anchor Taiwan Lamb (Atlantic City, NJ/Atlantic City) for a record time of 43.71 in the 4x100. That team finished sixth in the event while breaking the old school record of 44.50, set at the Salisbury University Opener March 16, 2002.

Fuentes also finished sixth in the 200-meter dash (22.83).

Kirk, meanwhile, finished third in the discus with a record throw of 121-11, breaking her mark of 117-2.69 set April 24 at the TCNJ Lions Invite. She also finished sixth in the shot put (34-6.25).

The women received a strong performance from junior Tiffany Logan (Turnersville, NJ/Washington Township), who was fourth in the 100 high hurdles (16.55), sixth in the 400 intermediate hurdles (1:11.71), ninth in the long jump (15-3.25) and combined with senior Nicole Parkinson (Englewood, NJ/Bergen County Tech), junior Tameka Jackson (Pennsauken, NJ/Sterling) and sophomore Nafeesa Yusuff (Vineland, NJ/Vineland) for a third-place finish in the 4x100 (50.06).

Yusuff also finished 11th in both the 100-meter dash (13.30) and the 200-meter dash (27.24). Parkinson was 10th in the 100-meter dash (13.27) and 12th in the long jump (14-9.75), while Jackson was fourth in the 200-meter dash (25.50).

Also for the Lady Raptors, senior Tina DiGiovanni (Collingswood, NJ/Collingswood) finished third at 5,000 meters (19:43.32), while junior Amanda Thompson (Camden, NJ/Camden) was seventh in both the shot put (33-8) and the javelin (100-11).

For the men, Lamb finished ninth at 100 meters in the preliminaries (11.37) and 10th at 200 meters (23.00), McGraw was 13th at both 200 meters (23.55) and in the 100-meter preliminaries (11.70), and Coleman was 15th at 200 meters (23.70).

Junior Matthew Weng (Lakehurst, NJ/Shawnee) finished fourth in the 400 intermediate hurdles (57.23), sophomore Chris McGowan (Barrington, NJ/Gloucester Catholic) was seventh at 800 meters (2:01.91) and sophomore Mike Fox (Hainesport, NJ/Rancocas Valley) finished fifth at 1,500 meters (4:06.29). Senior Matthew McElroy (Cherry Hill, NJ/Cherry Hill West) finished 14th at 400 meters (59.77) and 19th at 200 meters (26.21).

Photos by Nancy L. Pope

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