Seton Hall Prep’s bats were too much for the Columbia baseball team during Monday’s season opener at Underhill Field, as the Cougars came up well short against the Pirates, 12-5. Columbia had a few moments in the contest where they were close to taking control, but each time the Cougars seemed to be just one hit shy of a breakthrough.
“Look, a loss is a loss and that’s what we told them,” said CHS head coach Lorenzo Busichio. “There were a lot of positives to take out of the game, but we’re still 0-1.”
After giving up four first inning runs to the Pirates, the Cougars found themselves in a position to take the lead in the bottom of the second. An RBI single by short stop Jimmy Murphy, followed by a two-run ground-rule double by Joe Nardone, brought Columbia within a run.
But with a runner on second and third with one out, Columbia was unable to bring any more runs across the plate that inning and lost their best chance at taking the lead.
In the top of the sixth inning, a two-run double to centerfield by SHP’s Tim Hoehn put the Pirates up 7-3, in a seemingly comfortable spot, knocking out Columbia’s starting pitcher, Nigel Hunter. The Pirates tacked on another run later in the inning to take a five run lead.
But CHS was not without fight in this one. In the bottom half of the inning, Rony Jean-Mary followed a lead off Jake Pomper walk with a first-pitch two-run homer to right field, over the 313 foot mark. But despite loading the bases in the bottom of the sixth and getting five more base runners, Columbia was unable to scratch out anymore runs.
“What killed us today was that we had the bases loaded three times and couldn’t get a run out of it,” Busichio said. “We had an opportunity on three separate occasions to blow the game open a little bit and we couldn’t do that and they just hit too much.”
Meanwhile, SHP tacked on four more in the top of the sixth inning, behind a two-run single from Shane Nolan and a pair of RBI singles by Stephan Halibej and Rob Fonseca.
Hunter, along with his Cougar teammates showed a lot of fight in Monday’s contest. In the top of the second inning, with SHP looking to deliver an early knockout blow, getting the bases loaded, Hunter was able to induce a fly out to end the inning and keep Columbia within striking distance.
“I was really impressed with Nigel. As a sophomore, there were a few games where if he didn’t have his stuff, he just fell apart,” Busichio said. “He really couldn’t get the fast ball over today so he worked his curve, he worked his change-up and he battled.”
Walks are what became Hunter’s undoing in the game. The Cougar junior pitched into the fifth inning, and walked six batters, allowed nine hits, gave up seven runs (six earned) and struck out two pirates.
With the bats, Columbia was led by Nardone’s three-for-three performance, along with Nathan Tessler’s two-for-two game (reached base three times) and got 11 hits overall. The Cougars are in action again on Wednesday at Bloomfield high School.
“There’s a few things we need to work on, but we only got three out of a possible 11 scrimmage games in. We’ve been outside one day and inside for three,” Busichio said. “So considering, working with outfielders on a few things, we’re ok.”