Amato

MONTCLAIR, N.J. -– Junior third-baseman Dana Amato belted a two-run walk-off homer in the first while senior centerfielder Jamie Paulino lofted a sacrifice fly in the night cap for the winning run as top-ranked Montclair State won a pair of thrilling and identical 2-1, extra-inning contests against No. 24 The College of New Jersey on Saturday.

The Red Hawks took the first game in nine innings on Amato’s homer and won the second in eight innings to remain unbeaten on the year at 26-0 (10-0 NJAC). The 26 wins to open the season ties the program record for longest winning streak set in 2008 and is the second-longest behind the 2012-13 women’s basketball squad which won 29 in a row.

The Lions, who had a four-game winning streak snapped, fell to 21-7 overall, 8-2 in the NJAC.

The first game featured a pitching duel between MSU’s Alex Hill and TCNJ freshman lefthander Ashtin Hemler. The two pitchers, who entered the game with a combined 32-0, traded zeros through the first eight innings before a run finally crossed the plate.

New Jersey struck first as catcher Jamie Purcell doubled home pinch runner Corrine Minicozzi for the 1-0 lead. The run was the first allowed since March 24, a span of 72 1/3 innings. The Lions looked for more putting runners on first and third with two out however Hill got a pop to end the inning.

In the bottom half, Paulino sacrificed Jaclyn Allegretta, who began the inning at second base in the tiebreaker rule, to third base putting the tying run 60 feet away. Amato then stepped to the plate and worked a 1-1 count before blasting a pitch from Helmer high over the centerfield fence for the game-winner as the Red Hawks captured the opener, 2-1.

Hill earned her 20th victory of the season as she allowed a season-high eight hits. She struck out nine and did not walk a batter. Elmer fell to 13-1 despite giving up three hits. She struck out seven and walked one.

Lindsey Williams finished with three hits for TCNJ while Purcell was 2-for-4 at the plate.

The second game pretty much mirrored the first only this time is was junior righthander Alex Carisone locking up with Hill in a battle of zeros until the sixth when each team plated a run.

Kristen Lake doubled with one out which put pinch-runner Minicozzi at third base. Purcell then lifted a single to left field scoring Minicozzi as TCNJ led 1-0 again. Montclair State would immediately answer back in the bottom of the frame. Allegretta singled to lead off the inning and, after moving to second on a sacrifice, scored as Tara Petrucelli  smacked a single to left centerfield knotting the game at 1-1.

Into extra innings the game went as the Lions got a chance to take the lead in the top of the eighth. Pinch-runner Kristen Fitzsimmons was sacrificed to third. Purcell then bounced a ball back to the circle and the Red Hawks had Fizsimmons off second. But the freshman was able to get back to the bag with Purcell taking second as New Jersey had a threat going. But Hill got a ground ball for the second out and induced a fly ball to end the inning giving the Red Hawks an opportunity to win the game.

That is exactly what MSU did in the bottom of the eighth. With pinch-runner Sam Camacho on second, Allegretta laid down a bunt. The Lions elected to try and nail Camacho at third but she beat the throw which put runners on first and third with no outs. Paulino then lofted a fly ball to centerfield which allowed Camacho to score the winning run as Montclair State completed the sweep another 2-1 win.

Hill improved to 21-0 as she allowed the one run on seven hits. She struck out three and did not walk a batter. Carisone fell to 3-1 with a solid effort as she gave up six hits and fanned seven without a walk.

Pucell and Michelle Casale had two hits each for the Lions while Petrucelli went 2-for-3 at the plate for Montclair State.