WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J. – Behind two strong pitching performances from Andrew McGee (Toms River, N.J./Toms River South) and T.J. Hunt (Wyckoff, N.J./Ramapo), the Monmouth University baseball team defeated Iona in both games of a doubleheader, running its winning streak to ten games, while clinching a berth in the upcoming Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament. In game one, a 10-0 win for the Hawks (21-20, 11-7 MAAC), Robbie Alessandrine (Sewell, N.J./ Gloucester Catholic) went 3-for-4 with three runs batted in and Danny Avella (Matawan, N.J./Christian Brothers Academy) moved into fifth all-time with his 25th career home run. Jake Gronsky (Danville, Pa./Danville Area) drove in four runs in MU’s 5-2 nightcap victory over the Gaels (11-29, 7-13 MAAC).
Playing in its inaugural year in the league, Monmouth clinches its first MAAC tournament appearance, which will be held May 21-25 at FirstEnergy Park in Lakewood, N.J. The Blue and White, which have reached four NCAA Regionals under head man Dean Ehehalt will make its 18th postseason tournament appearance in program history.
In game one, McGee retired the first nine batters of the game and faced the minimum through five innings, improving to 4-5 on the year. The senior hurler scattered a trio of hits through six innings and struck out four without allowing a walk. Anthony Ciavarella (Phillipsburg, N.J./Phillipsburg) threw a perfect two innings in relief, punching out one, while Adam Yunginger (Lancaster, Pa./Manheim Township) worked a scoreless ninth.
Monmouth broke the ice in the home half of the second inning as Grant Lamberton (Newark, Del./Salesianum) worked a four-pitch lead-off walk and moved to second after Jon Guida (Martinsville, N.J./Bridgewater Raritan) was plunked in the back. The duo each advanced a base on Kyle Perry (Toms River, N.J./Toms River South)’s sacrifice bunt to third before Alessandrine connected on a two-run single to right center to give the Blue and White an early 2-0 advantage.
The Hawks tacked on four runs in the third as Craig Sweeney (Middletown, N.J./Middletown South) earned a one-out free pass, moved to second on a wild pitch and then over to third on an infield single by Avella. Lamberton grounded into a fielder’s choice, chasing in Sweeney to push the Hawks ahead by three. Guida kept the inning alive with a single through the left side, before Perry laced a RBI double, plating Lamberton, and chasing Iona’s starter Kenny Dietrich from the game. John Nargoski entered the game in relief for the Gaels and walked all three batters he faced which plated two runs for Monmouth to increase its lead to 6-0.
Sweeney began the fourth by getting hit in the shoulder by the second Iona reliever, Vinny Martin, and came around to score on Avella’s two-run home run down the right field line, his third homerun of the season. Lamberton and Guida continued the offensive onslaught with back-to-back singles and, after a fielder’s choice by Perry, Alessandrine and Joe Bamford (Washington, N.J./Warren Hills Regional [Northampton CC]) both drove in runs with a single and a groundout, respectively, to cap the Monmouth scoring.
In game two, Hunt struck out five over six innings, yielding a pair of runs on eight hits without issuing a walk to pick up sixth victory of the season. Stephen Frey (Washingtonville, N.Y./Washingtonville), who retired all three batters he faced, moves into a tie for fourth all-time with his 10th career save.
The Hawks jumped ahead 2-0 in the first inning behind three straight singles by Bamford, Wilgus and Gronsky off of Iona’s starter Mariano Rivera. In the top of the second, Iona strung together a trio of hits to load the bases against Hunt, but the junior struck out Tyler Bruno and induced a groundout to Bobby Vitulano to escape the jam unscathed.
Bamford started off the home half of the third with a leadoff walk and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Wilgus. Gronsky notched his third RBI of the game with a single to left center, giving the Hawks a 3-0 lead. Monmouth added a pair of insurance runs in the fifth, taking advantage of an errant throw by Rivera, landing Alessandrine on third, who later came around to score on Bamford’s sacrifice fly. Wilgus earned a four-pitch walk and then swiped second, setting up Gronsky’s RBI double, his fourth run batted in of the game to give MU a commanding 5-0 lead.
Iona tallied a pair of runs in the sixth as Beckett, who doubled to lead off the inning, touched home on a wild pitch, while Mistretta, who singled, recorded a run on Tyler Bruno’s sacrifice fly, but the Gaels could not climb any closer as Frey worked a scoreless seventh to convert his fourth save of the season.
Monmouth will look to complete the sweep of Iona on Sunday, May 11th at noon. Senior Day festivities are set for approximately 11:45 a.m.