By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
EGG HARBOR CITY — The Cedar Creek baseball team is assured of a state playoff berth and could possibly get a home game in the opening round of the South Jersey Group 2 tournament next week. The Pirates got a wake-up call from visiting Lower Cape May on Tuesday afternoon, and if they hope to advance in states they’ll have to play much better than they did against the Caper Tigers.
Cedar Creek trailed just 3-2 heading into the top of the seventh, and starting pitcher Jesse Milza had cruised through the sixth inning, retiring Lower in order. But a single by Justin Nicholas and a double by Kevin Roach made it 4-2, and the Tigers tacked on two more runs thanks to an error to score a 6-2 victory.
“(Jesse) threw the ball well. That was one of his better outings of the season. The big difference was he kept the ball low. As a pitcher, once you get up in the zone it’s easier to hit the ball and take advantage of that. But he kept the ball down and mixed it up. He had a lot of confidence throughout. Even when he got into tough situations, he bulldogged up,” said Cedar Creek coach Ed Truitt. “At times we’ve been hurt by inconsistency, but we’re still putting in the work. It’s not a lack of work on the players’ part, just timely hitting and unfortunate happenings — one error seems to snowball and lead to several runs.”
Each team plated a run in the first inning before Lower (3-14, 2-10 CAL National) pulled ahead, 3-1, on a two-run single to right field by Brenan Ray in the top of the fourth. The Pirates (7-12, 5-6) answered back with a run in the bottom of the inning when Tim Marker reached on an error, went to third on a wild pitch, then scored on another wild pitch.
That was all that Courtland Dickinson would allow, however, despite an inconsistent outing. He went 6 2/3 innings before being lifted because of the 110-pitch limit, and Kenny Haungs came on to record the final out. Dickinson finished with eight strikeouts while allowing just three hits and one walk.
“He was kind of effectively inconsistent, and it worked out for him. He was making pitches when he needed to,” Truitt said of Dickinson. “When he got into situations where he got two strikes, he hit his spots and executed, which was huge for him. There were times I thought we could have capitalized, but we didn’t, and you have to tip your cap to them. They made the plays.”
It may have been the last start at Cedar Creek’s home field for Milza, who has been a mainstay on both the football and baseball teams the past four years. The Pirates will know Thursday whether or not they will be home for the first round of states.
“It’s been fun. This season has been a little bumpy, but this group of kids is a really good bunch of kids and they love what they are doing. We’re struggling a little bit, but we still have the playoffs and we’re looking to get into a little bit of a groove heading into the playoffs,” he said. “This might be my last time playing at Cedar Creek for anything. It feels like it’s been more than four years, with baseball and football. It’s been fun. It’s crazy that it’s coming down to the end, but it is. But, there’s always a new beginning.”
“We have Absegami on Friday and they are a district rival. That’s one school we haven’t beaten in school history. It looks like we’ll have Manchester in the first round of the playoffs, and we’ve never won a playoff game, so getting out of that first round is something that this group can accomplish,” Truitt said. “When we put it all together, we can play some good baseball. And you never know what’s going to happen in the playoffs. Some weird things have happened, so you can’t take anything for granted.”
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: email@example.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays
By DAVE O’SULLIVAN