The last two Region XIX Champions met in what would be the biggest matchup thus far in the NJCAA DIII Baseball season as the No. 1 ranked Cumberland Dukes hosted the No. 3 Northampton Spartans. Cumberland, the 2017 Region XIX Champion, entered Saturday's matchup 13-0 in region play along with a 32-1 overall record. Northampton, who capture the 2018 Region crown a year ago, rolled onto the Vineland campus with a 9-0 record in region play with a 27-5 overall record. This certainly was a heavyweight matchup.
Cumberland struck first with a run in the first inning with an RBI walk by Matt Spaeth. The Dukes loaded the bases in the inning with just one out, but could only scratch across the lone run on the Spaeth walk. Northampton would get on the board with 3 runs in the 3rd inning sparked by a single followed with a Cumberland throwing error. The Spartan offense capitalized with an 2-RBI single followed by a RBI double. Cumberland starter, Michael Miles, would settle and shut the Spartans down before giving way in the 7th inning to reliever Anthony Masselli. Miles would battle through 6 innings of work, striking out 7 giving up just two earned runs.
For the final three innings, the Dukes bullpen would be dominant. Masselli would toss 2.2 innings while racking up 5 strikeouts. Jose Rodriguez would take the ball with 2 outs in the 9th and not allow a hit through 1.1 innings of work tallying one strikeout. The heroics by the bullpen allowed the Cumberland offense to claw their way back into the game. After the 3-run 3rd inning by Northampton, the Dukes would answer with a run in the 4th on an RBI groundout by Brian Gallante. Zero runs would be scored up until the 9th inning when Tyler Knox would reach on an error, and then would be moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Gallante. After a groundout that moved Knox to third, Ja'Ques Colon stepped up the to plate. Down to his last strike, Colon drove a ball just inside the rightfield foul line to tie the score at 3.
After setting Northampton down in order in the 10th, Dylan Scaranda led off the Cumberland half of the inning with an double to deep centerfield. Nicholas Milhan laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to move Scaranda to third. That brought up Donnie Stone, who would lace a single up the middle to send the Dukes dugout and the Cumberland faithful into a frenzy as Scaranda crossed the plate to score the winning run.
As the playoffs approach, this victory is a big step forward for Cumberland securing the number one seed. The Dukes are back in action on Tuesday, April 23 as they host the Roadrunners of Rowan-Gloucester.