By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP -- Junior center fielder Nick Milhan hit a ball so hard to left field leading off the bottom of the fourth inning on Wednesday that it didn’t matter how strong the wind was blowing. The line drive home run tied the game at 1-1 and sparked Egg Harbor Township’s 4-2 win over Oakcrest.
The visiting Falcons (0-3) put the tying runs on base in the top of the seventh, but a double play turned by EHT middle infielders Nick Pera and Kyle Transue, and a strikeout from reliever Hunter Barbieri, closed the door on EHT’s first victory of the season. The Eagles (1-1) were coming off a 3-2 season-opening loss to Vineland on Tuesday.
“I didn’t really expect it to go out,” Milhan said of the home run. “I was busting down the line. I was hoping for a triple, but when I looked up it was over the fence.”
Oakcrest’s Ryan Johnson was saddled with the loss despite a pretty good performance. He was charged with all four runs, but only one of them was earned, as Egg Harbor Township scored twice on throwing errors to third base on attempted steals.
Oakcrest shortstop Donnie Stone makes a play on a slow ground ball during the Falcons’ game against Egg Harbor Township on Wednesday. (Glory Days Magazine photos/Dave O’Sullivan)
Johnson’s RBI single to right gave Oakcrest a 1-0 lead in the top of the third, but EHT answered in the fourth on Milhan’s home run and when Andrew Holmes scored on a throwing error while stealing third base. The Falcons rallied to tie the game, 2-2, in the top of the sixth when courtesy runner Axel Castillo was sacrificed to second, advanced to third on a groundout, and scored on a wild pitch — one of the few mistakes by EHT starting pitcher Drew Hickman.
Hickman went six innings, striking out five and allowing just three hits.
“It’s good for both him and Brandon (Riggs). Against Vineland, Brandon threw three-hit ball over seven innings and I feel like we kind of wasted a great outing and a great effort by him,” Eagles coach Bryan Carmichael said. “Drew did an outstanding job today. I thought both of those guys, when we were in Myrtle Beach the last day … I didn’t think either one of them threw particularly well, so it was good for both of them to get out here (this week) and throw well.”
Egg Harbor Township took the lead for good in the bottom of the sixth thanks to some clutch hitting and more aggressive base running. Milhan reached on an infield error and stole second before coming around to score on Holmes’ double into the gap in left-center field. That made it 3-2, and Holmes scored for the second time in the game on an errant throw to third on an attempted steal.
Without a ton of power bats in the lineup, Carmichael said the Eagles are going to have to take chances on the bases in order to win games in a very tough Cape-Atlantic League.
EHT’s Drew Hickman allowed just three hits in six innings while striking out five to get the win over Oakcrest.
“I think we have the type of athletes where we can play that kind of style this year. We want to be aggressive on the base paths. Obviously, we’re going to run ourselves into some mistakes by being aggressive and we’ve done that already this year a couple times, but we’re going to keep being aggressive,” Carmichael said. “I don’t want to take that aggressiveness away from the kids. We call it a motion offense. We’re going to keep it moving. We want to try to take advantage of some stolen bases because of our team speed.”
The Eagles went 7-for-8 in stolen-base attempts, including three steals by Holmes. In all, five different players had at least one stolen base for Egg Harbor Township.
Carmichael said he wasn’t thrilled with the Eagles’ offensive performance, but he’ll take the win.
“It’s obviously good to get the first win under our belts. I don’t think we are playing baseball the way we are capable of playing baseball. We’re not playing Egg Harbor Township baseball,” Carmichael said. “Early in the scrimmage season we were hitting the ball extremely well, but once we got down to Myrtle Beach, I don’t know what happened. I actually can’t wait for it to rain (Thursday) so that we can get inside and get a good, 2-hour hitting session in where we can fix some swings. We made some adjustments late in yesterday’s game, and today I thought our approach was a little bit better.”
“There’s some tough competition and a lot of pitching (in the Cape-Atlantic League). Hopefully, we’ll pull off some wins. We have Ocean City on Friday, so we’re looking forward to that,” Milhan said.
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: email@example.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays