RUNNEMEDE – It’s been 22 years since the Triton Regional High School baseball team has appeared in the Diamond Classic, so this year’s invitation was special, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the Mustangs were satisfied with merely getting invited.
“Not being in it in over 20 years was something we talked about,” said Triton coach Bob Wankel. “We set goals and being in the Diamond Classic was a goal and winning a game in the Diamond Classic was a goal. Now we can push that mile marker back a little further and it’s win two games now.”
Colin Taylor is the main reason the Mustangs will be going the extra mile in the Diamond Classic this year. The senior right hander was outstanding Monday afternoon. He pitched a complete game, working out of jams in both the sixth and seventh innings to lift the No. 7 seed Mustangs over Delran, the 10th seed, with a 3-1 victory in their Diamond Classic opener before a spirited home team crowd.
“Colin is a two-sport athlete, he’s a varsity basketball player and a varsity baseball player, so he knows what it takes to be successful,” Wankel said. “Colin is so tough. Nothing fazes him. We could’ve put 35,000 (fans) in here today and the noise wouldn’t have bothered him. I don’t think every high school kid is like that. The more high-stakes things become, the more he tends to be at his best. He has the unique ability to focus in the moment and excel.”
Triton took advantage of a Delran error, the Bears had three in the game, and three walks by starting pitcher RJ Moten to take a 2-0 lead after one inning.
Delran (13-3) got one back in the second on an RBI double by Kris Giangreco to cut the lead in half, but the Mustangs got that one right back in the bottom half of the inning on Taylor’s RBI single to make it 3-1 after two innings and the rest of the game was in Taylor’s hands.
He finished with nine strikeouts including two that stranded Giangreco on second. He was able to throw his fastball where he wanted and spotted his curve and changeup. The Delran hitters spent the entire game trying to figure him out. The Bears did have seven hits, but the Mustangs played flawless defense behind him.
“I knew they had a couple of kids in their lineup that could really hit, but I just focused on throwing strikes,” Taylor said. “My fastball was really on today. My curve ball wasn’t at its best, it didn’t have as much break on it as it usually does. They put the ball in play. I think they got five hits off my curve ball.”
But, as Wankel said, Taylor buckled down when things got tight and made the pitches when he needed them. After getting the first batter on a fly ball to center field in the sixth inning, Taylor gave up consecutive singles to third baseman Tyler Leroy and designated hitter Zach Bohm to put runners on the corners. But Taylor struck out Gavin Budzyn and Giangreco to end the threat.
“My first thought was to try to get a ground ball and get the double play,” Taylor said. “But I got the first strikeout and it was like this is it, got to get the next guy, and I did. It felt awesome.”
With one out in the seventh, the Bears’ Alex Madera got a single. The next batter, Sean Ahrens, lofted a fly ball to shallow right that second baseman Ray Spraggins dropped, but he picked up the ball and fired to second to force out Madera. Anthony McFadden followed with a single to put runners on first and second, but Moten struck out swinging to end the game.
“I saw him (Moten) coming up and I knew I had him 0-for-3 for the game so I just kept the ball away, went with the fastball and hit my spots,” Taylor said. “The coach had confidence in me to get the last guy out and I did. I felt good.”
Triton (13-1) will play the winner of the Buena-Bishop Eustace game next Saturday in the quarterfinals at Washngton Township.
Triton 3, Delran 1
Delran 010 000 0 - 1
Triton 210 000 X - 3