By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
ATLANTIC CITY — Apparently, the rest of the Egg Harbor Township baseball players were getting a little tired of first baseman Connor Agostino getting all the hits in the state playoffs. The Eagles pounded out 14 hits in dominating Clearview, 15-6, in the second round of the South Jersey Group 4 playoffs on Thursday afternoon at the Chelsea Heights field in Atlantic City. The win puts EHT into the sectional semifinals, where they will host either No. 14 Jackson Memorial or No. 11 Southern Regional on Tuesday.
The win was the second straight at the Atlantic City field, as rain forced the Eagles’ first-round game against Kingsway to be played Wednesday instead of Tuesday. But shortstop Andrew Fowler said that might have been a break for the Eagles because it allowed them to get right back on the field after a good performance in a 4-0 win over the Dragons.
“After yesterday’s win, today we came out here thinking we had a shot at this,” Fowler said. “After that win, we really picked it up. The rain delay actually helped us, because we were hot yesterday and kept that going into today. It was good not to have to have a practice in between.”
“We had the mentality going in that we needed to hit the ball to win this game. Pounding out 14 hits, that’s a good job. We got the job done. We all pulled for each other and the dugout was going crazy,” said senior center fielder Nick Milhan. “We’re rolling right now, that’s all I have to say about that. We’re just waiting to see the outcome of the other game and we’ll have the same mindset going into the next round.”
The Eagles (20-4) wasted no time, jumping on Clearview starter Alex Soriano for six runs in the bottom of the first inning after sophomore right-hander Jordan Sweeney worked out of a first-and-third jam to start the game. Fowler led things off by getting hit by a pitch and Milhan followed with a double to left. Sweeney walked to load the bases, and Agostino — who had a pair of doubles against Kingsway — stayed hot with a two-run single to left.
Kyle Transue followed with a run-scoring double down the left-field line, and Jon Storz made it 4-0 with an RBI groundout. Drew Hickman, the No. 8 batter, added an RBI single to left before Fowler came up again and laced a run-scoring single to left to push the lead to 6-0.
“It’s like an illness. If one guy catches it, we all catch it,” Fowler said of the Eagles’ hot hitting so far in the postseason. “The energy is up and if one guy gets hot, we all get hot. It’s a good time to heat up. In the beginning of the year we were playing good baseball. We’re 20-4 now, so obviously we’ve been playing good baseball, but we knew we hadn’t played our best baseball yet. We just put up 15 runs, but we know we can do better.
“One-through-nine, Cory Smith had two hits out of the No. 9 hole, Drew has been heating up in the No. 8 hole, we’ve been looking good,” he added.
Clearview (15-9) rallied in the third, however, putting up four runs to cut the gap to 6-4. The big blow was a three-run triple off the left-field fence by Adian Hoffman. But once again, the Eagles exploded in the bottom of the fourth, rallying for nine runs to take a 15-4 lead.
Transue drew a bases-loaded walk to make it 7-4 before sophomore right fielder Robbie Petracci, who had been struggling of late, roped a three-run triple to deep center to make it 10-4.
“We needed that ball. It was bases loaded with no outs, we needed that hit and that triple was huge,” Milhan said. “It kind of helped us pull away even more and secured the win.”
Storz followed with an RBI single and Fowler added a two-run single up the middle before Sweeney launched a two-run home run to left. The Pioneers picked up two runs in the top of the fifth, but Cory Kessler allowed just two base runners in the final two innings to shut the door.
Every starter in the EHT lineup had at least one hit, and Sweeney and Petracci each finished with three RBIs. Sweeney added three runs scored, while Agostino, Fowler, Milhan and Transue each scored twice. Sweeney picked up the win despite not having his best outing, as he allowed five earned runs, but he allowed just five hits while striking out five in five innings of work. Sweeney’s home run was his ninth of the season, good for fourth-best in the state. He’s also second in the state in RBIs with 46.
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: sully@acglorydays; on Twitter @GDsullysays
By DAVE O’SULLIVAN