By MERT OKUR
The magical run for the Egg Harbor Township baseball team may have ended with a bittersweet taste after a 3-2, eight-innings loss to Southern Regional in the South Jersey Group 4 semifinals, but not reaching the sectional championship game certainly doesn’t take away from what the team was able to accomplish this year. The team finished with a stellar record of 20-5, which is the third time in school history the team registered a 20-win season.
The Eagles finished second in the Cape-Atlantic League’s American Conference with a 9-3 record, and earned a state playoffs berth. The Eagles proved they belonged right off the bat with a 4-0 victory over a scrappy Kingsway squad in the opening round. The next game was another day at the office for the Eagles as the offense erupted with 14 hits and 15 runs in a 15-6 win over Clearivew Regional. The hot streak ended with the loss against Southern Regional, which also ended a historic season for the Eagles.
The Eagles may not have achieved their ultimate objective of winning a championship, but the team grew together and become more than just friends, but a family. This statement is especially true for the seniors, who went through four years of trials and tribulations that unified them to and formed an unbreakable bond.
One of the seniors who led the way was third baseman Kyle Transue, who displayed to his team that family is the key to success. Transue was introduced to baseball at an early age by his father, who demonstrated the fundamentals and a love for the game of baseball.
“My dad had been my role model at a young age, brought me into the game and coached me for many years. Not only did he get me into baseball, he taught me how to respect it,” Transue said.
Transue played a vital role on the team and sometimes had a ton of pressure applied on his shoulders as a hitter in the middle of the batting order. Transue embraced his position and portrayed tireless tenacity and determination throughout every game. As a third baseman, he showed range and formed a solid left side of the infield along with shortstop Andrew Fowler, and he had a strong arm that allowed him to play deep when necessary to cover more ground.
“He has a hose for arm,” claims teammate Nick Milhan.
Transue was one of the most consistent and reliable players on the team, and that showed in his statistics. He finished his junior season with a .256 batting average, 20 hits, 16 runs and 15 RBIs. He took a huge step offensively this year, as a senior, increasing his stats to a .320 batting average, 24 hits, 22 runs and 25 RBIs. Even with such great stats, Transue didn’t enter the year striving for any specific stats or goals, he said. For him, the team’s goal always came before his or anyone else’s individual goals.
“Our goal, collectively, as a team, was to win a state title. I had no personal goals this year, only to win as a team and get to a state championship. We fell short, but this team had the strength and heart to win,” Transue said.
Baseball players can be quirky at times, and before each game this season, Transue had a specific routine that he required himself to perform in a certain order.
“I am very superstitious, and it’s just one of those things a baseball player has. I keep my warm-up jacket on until the game starts. I tape my wrist a certain way, I have to do my stretches in order,” he said. “When I complete each thing, it helps me get mentally prepared because I am satisfied with my routine and the way I completed my tasks. It helps me get ready to do my job on the field.”
The Eagles may have not won the sectional championship, but for Transue, there are still several memories he will reminisce about, including some that didn’t even involve him directly.
“I would have to say in the South Jersey Group 4 quarterfinal game last year against Cherokee. It was the craziest game I had been a part of. The game was back and forth the whole time and Cherokee had tied the game up to go into extra innings,” Transue said. “In the ninth inning, a clutch two-run homer by (Jordan) Sweeney put us ahead and we won the game to get to the semis.”
But his teammates’ memories mainly consist of Transue simply being a part of the success the Eagles have enjoyed the past two seasons.
“My memorable moment with Kyle is when he made the final out last year against Williamstown to advance us to the quarterfinals in the playoffs,” said fellow senior Dante DiPalma.
“Winning baseball games with him year in and year out, and there is never a dull moment with this kid,” Milhan added.
High School baseball is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and there are an abundance of lessons and people players will miss and look back on once their playing days are over. Transue said he already is beginning to reminisce about the team and would love a chance to play baseball with these guys one more time.
“I’m going to miss my teammates the most, we always felt comfortable around each other and had each other’s back,” he said. “This group of guys are my family and I’ll never forget about them. I also appreciate my coaches for always pushing me to be better and smarter. I’m also going to miss being able to go out onto the field and just have fun with my friends.”
For now, Kyle is still looking forward to hopefully playing more baseball.
“I’m going to try and walk on at Virginia Tech, and hopefully make the team,” he said.
By MERT OKUR