Written by Bill LeConeySaturday, May 03, 2014 10:21 am
BUENA VISTA TOWNSHIP – Egg Harbor Township High School sophomore Brandon Riggs found out earlier in the week that he would make his first varsity pitching start Friday against St. Augustine Prep – one of the top-ranked, toughest-hitting teams in South Jersey.
No problem, Riggs said.
Then, on Friday morning, he found out that the game would be played at the Hermits’ home field – where they hardly ever lose – because of the wet field conditions at EHT. Again, no problem.
“They told me they were moving me from jayvee to varsity, and I was getting the start,” Riggs said. “They just told me to keep the ball low, keep them off-balance. I wanted to just not be nervous out there and just relax.”
It worked. Riggs took that calm, collected attitude to the mound and earned a complete-game 4-2 victory over the Hermits. He scattered seven hits over seven innings, striking out one and walking one, as the Eagles improved to 10-5 overall with one of their biggest wins of the season.
Riggs is now 3-0 on the season (and his varsity career), having earned two previous victories in relief over the past two weeks. He said the Hermits’ unfamiliarity with him probably worked to his advantage.
“They knew nothing about my pitches (a knuckle curve, changeup and fastball),” he said. “They didn’t know how I threw at all. It was more about just throwing strikes and getting ahead of guys and not blowing balls by them.”
“He’s a kid we can depend on to throw strikes,” said EHT coach Bryan Carmichael. “He throws three pitches for strikes, which keeps kids off-balance. Obviously he doesn’t have a lot of velocity, but he throws three pitches for strikes, and that’s a big thing.”
Todd Henry had two hits and a pair of RBIs for the Eagles, who did not face top St. Augustine pitcher Joe Gatto, a pro prospect. “I think that helped a little bit,” Henry said.
Matt McCourt hit a two-run double for the Hermits (11-4).
Henry said the Eagles found out Friday morning that the game would be switched to the Prep. The teams will meet again on Wednesday, with that game switched to EHT.
“We found out we were coming here, and it seemed like the team got more focused,” Henry said. “At home we’re more relaxed. We were focused on hitting the ball all over the field and getting runs, just block everything out and play our game.”
“That’s the way we are,” Carmichael said. “The kids just want to play.”
Carmichael said the Eagles have been inconsistent at times this season because of their “baseball immaturity.” EHT started only one senior Friday, right fielder Monny Strickland, so the juniors and a few sophomores such as Briggs have stepped up to play key roles.
“I think we’re a good baseball team. We’ve shown it at times,” Carmichael said. “But I think we’re a little inconsistent. We’re kind of young, and at times we show our immaturity, and we’ve talked about getting focused. We’ve dropped some games in the past two weeks that we shouldn’t have. This is a big win today in that the guys can believe they’ve beaten a good team, a reputable program.”
Carmichael said the win could also “pique some interest” in the Eagles for an at-large bid in the prestigious Diamond Classic, a 16-team tournament that begins May 10. St. Augustine already has the automatic bid for Cape American.
The Eagles now face a tough sprint to the playoffs: 10 games in 14 days, starting with a tournament doubleheader Saturday in West Deptford, and four games in four days next week against tough Cape-Atlantic League opponents Mainland, Absegami, St. Augustine and Hammonton.
“We’re going to run guys out there,” Carmichael said. “Show us you can get the job done, step up for your teammates.”
Riggs certainly did that on Friday. Asked if he has earned a permanent spot on the varsity team, he laughed and said, “Yeah, definitely.”