BROOKLAWN – Few South Jersey high school teams over the years have met with as much success as the Gloucester Catholic baseball program.
Yet, despite winning numerous sectional and state championships, the Rams have not in recent years been able to nail down one of the area’s biggest prizes.
Even though the Rams won six titles in the early history of the Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic, they have not taken home the crown since 2001.
They are aiming to change that this season.
“These are probably the four or five biggest games of our high school careers,” said senior Luke Lesch Saturday as the Rams opened Classic play with a 10-0, five inning win over Audubon Saturday.
“GC hasn’t won this since 2001 and we weren’t even born yet,” he said. “We want to get this one for the school, for the alumni and for the whole program.”
Lesch drove in four runs and he sealed the win for the Rams when his fifth-inning single brought home the 10th run.
He also drove in three runs in two separate at bats to highlight a seven-run second inning.
His effort helped make a winner out of sophomore left-handed pitcher, Anthony Solometo, who gave up only two hits.
Though still a young player in the program, Solometo echoed Lesch’s desire to help the Rams add another Diamond Classic trophy to the school’s case.
“All I can do is try to win each game at a time,” he said. “But after it’s all over we want to be able to say we won the Diamond this year. I think this is something we need to prove.
“I think we can do it was long as we keep playing as a team.”
The Rams seem to have some extra motivation this season, when considering they were unable to make it out of the first round last season with a tough loss to St. Augustine.
Coach Adam Jussey has spoken to the team, telling the players how important he feels it is for them to take home another Classic title.
“(Winning the Classic) is always a goal,” he said. “This is one of the few things we haven’t been able to accomplish together as a group. It’s nice to get excited about things and this is something we can get excited about.”
A No. 4 seed in the tournament, the Rams had things going their way against the No. 13 seeded Green Wave.
With the way Solometo was pitching only a couple of runs probably would have been enough. Audubon was unable to get much going on offense.
Solometo gave up an infield hit to Sean Colbers in the fourth inning and a solid single to Blaze Fadio in the fifth. Otherwise, he walked three and struck out three.
“I thought I threw with confidence and conviction,” Solometo said. “After a few losses we were really looking for a bounce back day. It’s easy to throw when you look up and see 10 runs on the scoreboard.”
The Rams scored the only run they would need in the first inning when Jake McNellis led off with a walk and scored on an RBI single from Tyler Cannon.
In the second inning, the Rams bashed five extra base hits, including a two-run double by Lesch, who also had an RBI single in the inning.
The outburst included RBI doubles from Cannon and Tyler Shinn, along with an RBI triple from Justine Costanzo.
Holding an 8-0 lead going into the bottom of the fifth, the Rams scored twice to end the game.
Matt Laux walked, moved to third on Greg Ianelli’s second double of the game, and scored on an error. Then, with runners on first and third, Lesch poked a ball through the infield on the right side.
“I was looking to drive the ball into the outfield, but I found a hole,” Lesch said. “That’s what good hitters do – they find holes.”
Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic
Audubon 000 00-0 2
Gloucester Cath. 170 02-10 10
WP: Anthony Solmeto; LP: Dustin Bellis
2B: Luke Lesch, Tyler Cannon, Tyler Sinn, Greg Ianelli, 2, GC. 3B: Justin Costanzo, Ryan Nutley, GC