ATLANTIC CITY – The Egg Harbor Township High School baseball team worked hard all season to secure home field advantage for the state playoffs, only to see its home field unavailable because of wet conditions.
No matter. Good teams adapt to their surroundings. The Eagles beat Kingsway 4-0 in the first round of the NJSIAA South Jersey Group IV playoffs Wednesday at the Chelsea Heights artificial turf field, about 13 miles from their home.
Senior Drew Hickman was efficient and effective, needing to throw only 79 pitches in a two-hit shutout, striking out four. Connor Agostino hit a pair of doubles and Kyle Transue had two hits and two RBIs as the second-seeded Eagles (20-4) advanced to the quarterfinal round.
“We’ve been waiting for this game the last two days. The rainouts really bugged us,” Hickman said. “We played on this field earlier in the season against Atlantic City. We played really well here, so it didn’t really bother us coming here.”
Hickman also benefitted from good defensive play on the true-bounce artificial turf. Right fielder Robbie Petracci made a nice catch on a sinking line drive in the second inning. Second baseman Jayson Amoroso started an inning-ending double play in the third, and catcher Dante DiPalma picked off a base runner in the same inning.
But Hickman did a lot of it himself, pitching with good rhythm and command and allowing only seven batters to reach base.
“He commanded the strike zone, got ahead of hitters, controlled the tempo,” coach Bryan Carmichael said. “He did exactly what he’s preached to do. Seventy-nine pitches is incredible, and he gave us seven quality innings.”
The Eagles jumped on the No. 15 Dragons early Wednesday, as Agostino’s RBI double scored Andrew Fowler in the first inning. In the third, after a one-out single by Jordan Sweeney and a Kingsway error, Transue smacked a double to score two runs. Catcher Dante DiPalma followed with an RBI single through the hole between third base and shortstop.
Next, the Eagles will host seventh-seeded Clearview in a quarterfinal at 4 p.m. Thursday. The game is scheduled to be played on EHT’s already soggy home field, and with more rain in the forecast, it’s anybody’s guess when or where it will be played.
But the Eagles certainly have more than enough incentive against Clearview, the team that beat them in the semifinal round last year en route to a South Jersey championship.
“They’ll be ready (for Clearview),” Carmichael said. “They’ll enjoy this one today. It’s kind of a quick turnaround for us. Clearview got to play (Tuesday, a 6-3 win over Williamstown) and got to prepare themselves mentally, while we have to get up tomorrow and get ready for another playoff game.”
“They had a really good team last year,” Hickman said of Clearview. “I know they lost a couple pitchers … but we’ll be ready for them.”
“We want to get revenge,” Transue said. “We need to finish that tomorrow and play our best baseball. We haven’t played our best baseball this whole season. We always have a few mistakes. Today we had a couple guys thrown out on the basepaths and made a few errors on the field. We need to put it all together.”