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Upstart Absegami gets tough test against powerful St. Augustine Prep

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By DAVE O’SULLIVAN Publisher BUENA VISTA – Absegami played good baseball on Monday afternoon at St. Augustine Prep. Unfortunately, simply playing good baseball isn’t usually enough to beat a team such as the Hermits. Matt Ardente, the Braves’ junior ace, ran into some trouble early but kept the game close, then blasted a 3-run double in the top of the fourth to tie the game at 5. St. Augustine answered right back with a pair of runs in its half of the fourth inning, and Mike Ritter worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh to preserve a 7-5 win for the Hermits (6-1). “I thought we came out a little flat. It was a good baseball game, but we made one or two uncharacteristic errors or we didn’t get the big hit. We played good defense, but not what you need to beat this team. We pitched good, but not what you need to beat this team,” said Absegami head coach Brian Wastell. “They hit one-through-nine. We matched them hitting but we didn’t get that timely hit and that’s a compliment to their kid, who kept us off-balanced. “We played a good game, but not good enough to beat the Prep. That’s just the bottom line.” Absegami junior Matt Ardente delivers a pitch during the Braves' 7-5 loss to St. Augustine Prep on Monday afternoon. (Glory Days Magazine photos/Dave O'Sullivan) Absegami junior Matt Ardente delivers a pitch during the Braves’ 7-5 loss to St. Augustine Prep on Monday afternoon. (Glory Days Magazine photos/Dave O’Sullivan) The kid Wastell was referring to was Hermits sophomore lefty Bill Chillari, who did allow five runs, but shut the Braves down in the early innings, which allowed St. Augustine to build a 5-1 lead and force Absegami (4-2) to play catch-up the rest of the way. St. Augustine broke a 1-1 tie in the bottom of the third with a pair of runs, then loaded the bases with no outs against Ardente. Ardente induced a double-play ball, but another run scored to make it 4-1. Matt McCourt followed with a 2-out RBI single to center to push the lead to 5-1. In the fourth, a single by Absegami’s Tyler Welch loaded the bases and Matt Branco came through with an RBI single to cut the deficit to 5-2. That’s when Ardente boomed a bases-clearing double to the warning track in left field to tie it at 5. An RBI single by Dylan Tolbert made it 6-5 in the bottom of the fourth to give Prep the lead for good, and Sean Carew added a sacrifice fly. In the seventh, Absegami mounted a 2-out rally on a single by Brandon Bowen, an infield error and an infield single by Drew Roesch before Ritter got out of the jam. Wastell said the difference was Ardente got a few balls up in the strike zone and the St. Augustine hitters took advantage. “He elevated a few pitches and they make you pay, and that’s uncharacteristic of him. He’s usually down in the zone,” Wastell said. “He’s wanted these games. In the summer he told us he wanted the big games, and it doesn’t get any bigger than the Prep.” Absegami second baseman Tyler Welch makes a swipe tag on a stolen base attempt by the Hermits' Jason Ianni, but the ball gets away. Absegami second baseman Tyler Welch makes a swipe tag on a stolen base attempt by the Hermits’ Jason Ianni, but the ball gets away. “I knew they had a good lineup coming in. Every pitch counts. If you leave one pitch up with a 3-2 count you know they are going to drive it, so every pitch matters in this type of game,” Ardente said. “I tried to switch it up between innings because I didn’t want them to read my pitches. So I’d work in one inning, out the next. I know these guys are really good hitters. Hopefully I can come back next game and show what I’m about. Today wasn’t my best performance, but I know I have more in me.” Wastell said he was wary coming into the game because his team had garnered some attention this weekend as a squad on the rise. “Anytime you play the Prep it’s a test. I was a little nervous because we got a little bit of hype with the newspapers and stuff, and that’s always the curse,” Wastell said. “The test isn’t going to be today, it’s going to be how we bounce back against St. Joe’s (on Wednesday). St. Joe’s hits the baseball and they are an up-and-coming team.” Contact Dave O’Sullivan: sully@acglorydays.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays  [adsense]

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