Over the weekend, Region 19 fans were treated to a potential preview of just how competitive the postseason tournament will be as two, top 5 teams faced off in a hotly contested series. On one side you had the #1 ranked team in the country and the defending Region 19 champions, the Cumberland County College Dukes, and on the other side the always competitive, high energy #5 ranked Bergen County College Bulldogs. Bergen entered their first weekend series fresh off the new ranking as the Dukes have held the top spot over the past 3 weeks.
In game 1, the Dukes turned to their ace, Jarrett Quinn, to get the series off to a strong start. Bergen had other plans as Bulldogs catcher, Dylan Habeeb, drove a ball over the right centerfield fence to ignite the Bulldogs dugout as they took an early 1-0 lead. The lead would be short-lived as Dylan Scaranda (2-3, 2 R, 1 RBI) drove his 2nd HR of the season to tie the ball game at 1 in the 2nd inning. Cumberland would tack on another run in the 3rd for a 2-1 lead. The game would be put away for good, when Donnie Stone stepped up to bat with the bases loaded in the 8th inning. Stone drove a blistering line drive into the right centerfield gap that would clear the bases for a 3-RBI double to bring the lead to 6-1. The extended lead was more than enough for Quinn, the all-time wins leader in Cumberland Baseball history, as he would scatter just 5 hits after the 1st inning home run. Quinn would go on to finish the 9th inning for a complete game and his record 18th career win. The win would move Quinn to 6-0, which ties him for the NJCAA Division 3 overall lead in wins.
Game 2 of this series was to be played on the campus of Bergen County College, however, due to some a snow storm earlier in the week, the games were moved to Vineland. Bergen would be considered the home team despite the site change. The Bulldogs ambushed Dukes starter Anthony Capasso as they jumped out to an early 4-0 lead in the 3rd inning. Bergen starter Aryed Garcia baffled the Dukes stout offense, scattering 4 hits over 5 innings, striking out 7. Ryan McIssac highlighted the Dukes with 2 hits to bring his team-leading total to 33 on the year. Brian Bromley pitched brilliantly in relief of Capasso, pitching 3 1/3 innings, giving up just 1 hit and tallying 3 strike outs. The effort would fall short as the Dukes would drop game 2, 4-1.
The rubber match between these two teams would not disappoint as CCC starter Steve Bowley and Bergen starter Jeremie Torres would go toe-to-toe in a classic pitchers' duel. Bergen would strike first and take a 1-0 lead in the 3rd inning, which would be the 3rd straight game in which Bergen would score first. Cumberland would answer as Ryan McIssac drove a double to the right center gap to lead off the 4th inning. After a groundout moved McIssac to third, Ivan Solis would drive a pitch deep to left field for a sacrifice fly that would bring McIssac in to tie the game at 1. Bowley would hold the Bulldogs off long enough for Dylan Scaranda to stamp his name on the series for good. In the 6th inning and the game hanging in the balance, Scaranda would drive yet another pitch over the left field fence to lift the Dukes to a 2-1 lead. Jose Rodriguez would relieve Bowley and close out the series win for Cumberland with an emphatic strikeout with the tying run on 3rd base. Rodriguez notched the 2nd save of his young career, pitching 1 1/3 innings with 3 strikeouts.
The win moves the Dukes to 17-4 overall, 10-1 in region play, and 8-1 in the GSAC. They next play Tuesday, March 27th, against Rowan-Burlington County. First pitch is scheduled for 3 PM.