Third base coach Jerry Sidman noticed before the game that his players were a little uptight, perhaps a bit nervous, as they got set to face William Paterson, one of the better teams in the tough New Jersey Athletic Conference. They needed something to calm them down and they got it right away.
“We’re not afraid to play anybody, but before the game you could see they were a bit nervous,” Sidman admitted. “They relaxed quickly, though, when Chris Cutrone retired the side 1-2-3 in the top of the first. He tends to have that affect because he’s been so good this season that he gives us a level of comfort when he’s on the mound.”
Cutrone led the St. Joseph’s College Bears to a 3-2 victory over William Paterson University at MCU Park in Coney Island on Monday as he allowed just two runs, one earned, with 10 strikeouts during a complete game. It’s the Bears’ ninth win in a row, a school record, and their 20th win of the season, which tied a school record.
“Huge isn’t even the word,” said catcher Domenick Camerada. “William Paterson is in one of the best conferences in the nation. Coming from our zone where we play some mediocre teams, getting a win against Paterson is huge for us. It’s a big win.”
The Bears also improved to 10-3 at home as they continue to work toward their goal of winning the Small College World Series.
“The polls are very frustrating,” Camerada admitted. “We went undefeated last week and we didn’t move anywhere. But with big wins like today, we’re going to become one of those top teams that are mentioned more often.”
Cutrone was dominant all game long. He pitched 1-2-3 innings in the first, second and third innings. He put two runners on in the fourth, but escaped the jam with back-to-back strikeouts. A throwing error led to a run in the fifth, and another run scored in the sixth on a single to left just past the glove of the third baseman. He then pitched an effortless seventh, eighth, and ninth to wrap up the game.
“I just felt like I was in the zone today,” Cutrone said. “I was hitting my spots, Dom called a great game and my slider was really working today. The most important thing, though, was my defense. They’ve been phenomenal lately. I’m making the pitches and they’re backing me up.”
The offense wasn’t outstanding, but it got the job done. The Bears pushed two runs across in the first inning when Camerada singled to left field to make it 1-0 and then Mitch Brigando walked with the bases loaded to force in another run. It was a big inning, but it could have been bigger.
“I was a little disappointed that we could have maybe tacked on two more,” Sidman said. “I knew they would battle back, they weren’t just going to sit. I would have liked three or four. But we battled, we played well.”
With the score tied at 2-2, the Bears scored the winning run when Anthony DeFillippo walked, Anthony Inserillo pinch ran, stole second, advanced to third on a wild pitch, and then scored on a Nicholas LoPrinzi sac fly to right.
With the win, Cutrone improved to 6-1 on the season with a 2.73 ERA and for the second year in a row the Bears reached 20 wins. Their goal every year is 25 wins and to reach the Small College World Series, but they’ve begun to look past that at this point toward 30 wins and a World Series title.
“I was just kidding with the guys and I said, ‘why not 30,’” Sidman said with a big smile. “OK, we got to 20 and now that goal is pushed aside. 30? If the weather stays right I think it’s something we can accomplish.”
The Bears aren’t getting ahead of themselves though. They haven’t gotten much love in the polls which is a constant reminder that even a slight step back might deny them what they feel they rightfully deserve. So right now all of the focus is on Thursday’s game against Fairleigh Dickinson-Florham.