EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP – Egg Harbor Township High School baseball coach Bryan Carmichael said he challenged his team Thursday, April 13 on how to respond - not to adversity, but to success.
Needless to say, he was happy with the response.
One day after beating a tough and highly ranked Millville team , the Eagles pounded out 13 hits in a 15-3, five-inning win over Atlantic County Institute of Technology in a Cape-Atlantic League American Conference game.
Senior Nick Milhan, stepping in to help out a young and unproven pitching staff, pitched five strong innings and also contributed three hits and two runs batted in. Junior Cory Smith hit a big two-run double in the second inning to break a tie, while Dante DiPalma, Jordan Sweeney and Connor Agostino also had run-producing hits as the Eagles improved to 3-1 on the season.
“I told them, ‘We have to come out and take care of business, do what we have to do and move on. I don’t want a letdown today,’” Carmichael said. “Our whole thing is taking it one game at a time, just trying to accumulate as many (NJSIAA) power points as we can along the way and take care of business. (Milhan) came in the dugout and said, ‘Coach, we did what we needed to do today,’ and that’s exactly what we did. We hit the ball.”
Smith, a junior outfielder playing on the varsity level for the first time, had probably the biggest hit of the game. After the teams traded a pair of runs each with some sloppy fielding in the first inning, the Eagles put two runners on base in the second against ACIT starter Ryan Keil before Smith lined a double in the gap to score two runs. Smith went to third on a wild pitch and scored on a sacrifice fly by Ryan Fowler.
“I thought a big hit would get us going, and it did,” Smith said, who bats at the tail end of a potent EHT batting order. “I get my opportunities, so I just have to make the most of them. We don’t play as one player, we play as a team. Everyone gets their chances and everyone gets the job done.”
On Wednesday, the Eagles took advantage of shaky defense by Millville to score seven runs in the fourth inning on only two hits, beating the Thunderbolts for only the second time in 12 meetings over the last five years.
“That was a big win yesterday, particularly the way it went down,” Carmichael said. “A win is a win. We’ve been on the other end of it, several times, so we’ll take it.
“I don’t really think we’re hitting to our potential right now, and that’s a good thing,” Carmichael said. “We want to peak at the right time. The difference in the game against Vineland (their only loss) is that they hit with runners in scoring position and we didn’t. It’s something we’ve been stressing with the kids. It’ll come around. We’ll start swinging the bats like we’re capable of.”
The pitching is more of a question mark, Carmichael said. The Eagles lost starters Brandon Riggs and Luke Elwell to graduation, and Hunter Barbieri is running track this year instead of playing baseball, so Drew Hickman was the only proven quantity coming into the season.
But the Eagles have received quality innings from younger pitchers Cory Kessler, Tyler Burger, Mike Dodd and Sweeney.
“We have enough arms. We’re just unproven right now,” Carmichael said. (Milhan) is filling a little bit of that void. He came in and did a nice job today.”
Milhan, who had never pitched in a regular-season game before this year, settled down after a somewhat shaky first two innings, striking out three. “I’m just stepping up to help out,” Milhan said. “I pitched a little when I was younger. I just tried to work through it today.”
Egg Harbor Township split two games at the Rancocas Valley tournament last Saturday, beating Notre Dame but losing to host RV. Afterwards, the Eagles traveled to Myrtle Beach, S.C., for the Mingo Bay Baseball Classic, April 18-22. It is the third straight year the Eagles have headed south around spring break.
“We’ll be playing some local high schools down there,” Carmichael said. “We’re looking forward to it. It’s a good bonding opportunity.”
“It’s going to be fun,” Smith said. “Hopefully we’ll play some good baseball down there and get the job done.”