(This story appeared in the March 26th issue of The Stall, the student run newspaper of Brookdale Community College.)
When you turn onto campus off of Phalanx Road and turn left onto Arena Drive, across from parking lot six is MacLaughlin Field. This field is the home of the Jersey Blues baseball team and named after recently inducted Hall-of-Fame coach Paul MacLaughlin. While this field has often been covered in snow over the past few months, the baseball season is well underway.
The Jersey Blues came into the season ranked seventh in the country in the NJCAA DIII rankings and started their season on a trip to Florida, where they played a total of 12 games against community colleges from across the country. The team participated in the 2015 RussMatt Central Florida Invitational from March 15-21. This tournament hosts colleges from across the country from all levels looking to travel to an ideal location for baseball to get their season started. It hosts over 200 colleges annually ranging from NCAA DI through JUCO and this year was held from Feb. 21-April 11. Teams are welcome to participate anytime during this span permitting they register on time. The tournament is held on numerous fields in the Winter Haven-Auburndale area, according to the tournament’s website.
The Blues split two games against a team from St. Cloud Technical & Community College (Minnesota) that is ranked fourth in the country to open up the season on March 15. The first game was won 6-5 by the Blues. Sophomore Justin Harnett got the start and pitched well in the opener. The 6’2” right-hander threw five innings allowing three hits, one earned run and struck out three. Freshman southpaw John Monahan hit a batter, but otherwise threw a clean seventh to pick up his first career save. St. Cloud won game two by a score of 4-2.
The Blues played a doubleheader against Lincoln Land Community College (Illinois) the next day. The Blues dropped both games, dropping their season record to 1-3. The first game was started by sophomore right-hander Chris Marte, who hurled 5.2 frames and allowed seven hits, five runs (four earned), walked two batters and struck out seven. The Blues jumped out to an early 4-0 lead, but fell 6-4. Lincoln Land took the second game by a score of 12-6. Sophomore southpaw Mike Pepio took the loss as he gave up six hits, seven earned runs and five walks over three innings. Sophomore right-hander Mike Imperato pitched well in relief, hurling two perfect frames with a strikeout.
The next two games were against Niagara Community College (New York) at Chain of Lakes Park in Winter Haven. This park used to be the spring training home of the Boston Red Sox and the Cleveland Indians. The Blues took game one 7-5. Freshman right-hander Frank Dente got the start but did struggled. He gave up four hits, five runs (four earned), walked three batters and struck out four over 2.2 innings. Sophomore Aaron McCue came in in relief and picked up the win. The right-hander gave the Blues 4.1 quality innings out of the bullpen allowing three hits, no runs, two walks and three strikeouts. Niagara took the next game 11-3. Freshman right-hander Joe DeCelie got the ball for the Blues and took the loss. He threw 2.1 innings allowing 5 hits, six runs (four earned), walked a batter and struck out five.
After losing both games of a doubleheader against a Century College (Minnesota) team that is ranked eighth in the nation on March 19, including a heartbreaking loss in game one which saw a 7-4 lead vanish in the bottom of the seventh, the Blues turned the page and took on the Community College of Rhode Island on March 20. Justin Harnett got the ball in the opener and he gave the team 5.1 solid innings. He allowed four runs on four hits, but only one run was earned. He also walked two and struck out one, but took the loss as the Blues fell 6-4. The losing streak ended in game ten, which Brookdale won 5-2.
The final two games of the trip took place on March 21 against Delgado Community College (Louisiana). Chris Marte started and gave up eight hits, five runs (two earned), two walks and six strikeouts over five innings. They lost both games on the day, 8-0 and 7-6. The Blues ended their trip 3-9, but played a lot of good competition down there with teams they are not necessarily familiar with. Getting reps is always important, and there is no better way to do that than playing real games. Regardless of the outcome, this was a great experience for the Blues.
Now that the team is back from Florida, they will begin to play games on campus. There really is nothing better in the world than baseball. The games are always free, so be sure to check out some games during the season. While these games are always weather permitting, let’s hope that we have seen the last of the snow and America’s great pastime can start up in the northeast and across the country once again.
Special thanks to @BCCBaseball1 on twitter for game updates and stats. Give them a follow.