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Senior A.J. Russo picks up first career pitching victory in Holy Spirit’s 6-1 win over Atlantic City

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By DAVE O’SULLIVAN Publisher ABSECON — Facing a daunting schedule of playing seven games in the next eight days — and coming off a 4-3, extra-innings loss to Mainland Regional on Saturday afternoon — Holy Spirit head coach Steve Normane knew his team was badly in need of a win. The Spartans had won just one of their first eight games heading into Tuesday’s matchup against rival Atlantic City, and with their backs basically against the wall, Normane turned to senior A.J. Russo to get a job done on the hill. Russo, an infielder by trade who never really pitched much prior to this year, looked like a seasoned ace on Tuesday afternoon. After Steve Myers’ RBI double in the top of the first, Russo was lights out the rest of the way, scattering six hits in five innings while striking out four to lead Holy Spirit to a 6-1 win. It was the first career pitching victory for Russo. Junior southpaw Steve Myers delivers a pitch during Atlantic City's game against rival Holy Spirit on Tuesday in Absecon. (Glory Days Magazine photos/Dave O'Sullivan) Junior southpaw Steve Myers delivers a pitch during Atlantic City’s game against rival Holy Spirit on Tuesday in Absecon. (Glory Days Magazine photos/Dave O’Sullivan) “It’s always important to get the first one when you’re facing a big stretch like this. (This season) started out rough and we’re trying to turn it around, and it’s always nice to get a win against a rival team,” Russo said. “I know all these guys and I know Steve Myers is their big hitter. I tried to pitch around him, but he got the best of me.” “A.J., for the role I envisioned him in this year, pitching wasn’t a big part of it. But he proved to us early on that he could get in there, throw strikes, be effective and throw ground balls, and he did that today,” Normane said. “He had a start last week where he did the same thing. Today he pounded the zone, kept the ball low and minimized the damage. Our fielders responded. He works quickly and they respond to that. They fielded the baseball and got guys out, and that’s all we need to do.” Holy Spirit got the run Russo gave up right back in the bottom of the first, tying the game at 1-1 when Russo walked, stole second, and came around to score on a single up the middle by catcher Matt Marczyk. The Spartans (2-7) added another run in the inning to take a 2-1 lead on Atlantic City (2-4). Matt Rivera followed up Marczyk’s single with a single to left, scoring pinch runner Dom Boselli. Matt Marczyk rips an RBI single to help lead the Spartans to a 6-1 win over the Vikings. Matt Marczyk rips an RBI single to help lead the Spartans to a 6-1 win over the Vikings. The Spartans, who had just two hits in the loss to Mainland on Saturday, added another run in the third when Joe Hartley scored on a wild pitch, and one more in the fourth on a booming double to left-center by Rivera. Holy Spirit capped the scoring in the bottom of the fourth on an RBI single by Russo with the bases loaded and a sacrifice fly by Anthony Boselli. Tommy Burns finished with a pair of hits and a run scored and Rivera went 2-for-3 with two RBIs for Holy Spirit. “We have to jump out on teams early. We feel like if we can hit, we can be pretty good,” Russo said. “I’ve never really been a pitcher in my life. This is the first year I’ve really pitched, but I try to just step up whenever coach calls my name, pitch the best I can and put our team in position to win some games.” Normane said the win was big, not only because it starts a busy week of games, but also because he had to shuffle his lineup due to handing out some discipline to a few of his underclassmen. “We went on a bit of a tailspin. After we got that first win we lost four tough games last week. We know this stretch coming up is going to basically be our season. Our seventh game (in this stretch) is our 15th game of the year, and those first 15 count for states, so we need to get a few of these. I was preaching to these guys that this first one is the one to get. It’s a rivalry game, (Atlantic City) is going to show up ready to play,” Normane said. “We were ready and we responded. We had some guys out there who weren’t our normal starters. We had some issues off the field, but everybody who was in there showed up ready to go and I couldn’t be more proud of them.” Contact Dave O’Sullivan: sully@acglorydays.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays [adsense]

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