By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
ATLANTIC CITY — Following Egg Harbor Township’s 13-2 win over Atlantic City on Friday afternoon, Eagles designated hitter Angel Murray said he feared even touching sophomore Jordan Sweeney on the shoulder, lest he burn his hand. That’s how hot Sweeney is right now.
Sweeney was a one-man wrecking crew against the host Vikings at the Chelsea Heights turf field, finishing with an absurd stat line in what he characterized as the best day of his baseball life. Not only did the 6-foot-3, 215-pounder throw a complete game no-hitter, but he also had three hits at the plate, including two inside-the-park home runs — one of which went for a grand slam — and finished with seven RBIs.
“This kid Jordan is sick right now. He’s on fire. I don’t even want to touch him right now, that’s how on fire he is. I was in a little slump, but he’s been picking me up with his hitting and I took some key stuff away from his at-bats, and I was able to hit the ball well today,” said Murray, who had three hits, including a double, an RBI and a run scored. “He’s an ace. He throws the ball hard, and nobody could touch him today.”
When asked if that was Sweeney’s best day of baseball ever, he said, “It probably was. I’m really seeing the ball well, just trying to hit the ball hard, and it’s all falling right now. It’s easy up there right now. This is what we can do when we hit the ball well, and if we can start doing that every game, we’re going to be really good.”
Atlantic City starting pitcher Francisco Pina had a live fastball and a sharp slider, but had some command issues early on as EHT loaded the bases in the top of the first inning on a pair of walks and a hit batsman. Sweeney then drilled a shot into the right-center field gap, and with no fence the ball rolled about 450 feet from home plate, allowing him to score easily on an inside-the-park grand slam.
The Eagles (9-3, 3-2 CAL American) tacked on four more runs in the second to take a commanding lead. Mike Dodd booped an RBI single to right and two batters later Cory Smith laced a run-scoring triple to the gap in left-center to make it 6-0. Nick Milhan followed with another RBI triple before Sweeney made it 8-0 with an RBI single to left.
“It might be one of the best games a high school kid has had all season so far. I was impressed with him. He’s a big kid, a strong kid at the plate. Throwing a no-hitter and driving in seven runs is a heck of a day for a young man like that,” said Atlantic City coach Brent Bean, who was so impressed with Sweeney’s effort he handed him the game ball after Sweeney set the Vikings down in the sixth to end the game via the 10-run mercy rule. “When a team comes out and has 14 hits and eight of them go for extra bases, that’s a good team day for them.”
EHT coach Bryan Carmichael said he didn’t even realize Sweeney — who finished with eight strikeouts — had a no-hitter going until the bottom of the fifth because the Vikings (7-6, 2-4) plated a pair of runs in the third on walks and wild pitches. He even broke one of baseball’s unwritten superstition rules by mentioning the no-hitter in the dugout during the fifth inning.
“Seven RBIs today, he has five home runs on the season,” Carmichael said. “I didn’t even realize it was a no-hitter until the bottom of the fifth. I actually said it to our guys, ‘let’s go, our guy has a no-hitter going here.’ And they were all like, ‘what are you doing? Why are you talking about that?’ I wanted him to finish it, so I was glad to see we were able to put a couple of runs up there to finish it early.”
“I was just trying to take control with my fastball and get ahead. We’re really close as a team. We talked after last night’s game and got things together,” Sweeney added.
The win was a big bounce-back victory after the Eagles lost on Thursday, 8-3, to Cape-Atlantic League American Conference leading Vineland.
“We had some key moments yesterday and picked it up today, and we’re just moving forward right now. Obviously, we didn’t hit the ball well yesterday but we came out today and played well. I hope people know that we are a good team,” Murray said.
Sweeney was a big reason for the rebound, which is apropos considering he’s one of the stars of the Eagles’ basketball team in the winter.
“He’s been everything we’ve expected from him. Hopefully, he’ll keep it even-keeled and we can get some of our other bats heated up. Today was a drastic difference from yesterday. I kind of got on the guys a little bit (after the loss to Vineland) and we rectified the situation a little bit. Obviously, they responded. We’re taking it one game at a time. We have some veteran guys, and we have some young guys like Sweeney, (Robbie) Petracci and Dodd, those young sophomores, and they are still learning. It’s a good group of guys,” Carmichael said. “He’s still learning, but he never ceases to amaze me. He’s a big kid, and he brings his lunch pail to work every day. He has that kind of attitude. He comes to practice every day with a business-like approach, and, obviously, it’s paying off. He puts a lot of time into it.”
Bean said his team got a good look at what it’s like to play a top-caliber squad.
“What we told our guys is, we’ve had a couple games this year where we walked a couple of guys and things like that, so our philosophy is if our pitchers can throw strikes and a team hits and beats us, then they deserve to win. With saying that, I also told the boys that (EHT) is going to be a playoff team and we are going to be a playoff team,” Bean said. “We’re in the same group, and we just got a good look at what the playoffs are going to look like. We have another Group 4 team on Sunday in Washington Township, so we better start getting used to it right now.”
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @GDsullysays
By DAVE O’SULLIVAN