AUDUBON – Audubon head coach Richie Horan has been around a lot of great teams and great players. That’s easily demonstrated in the seven state titles the Green Wave have brought home in his tenure and the over 500 wins he has accrued in that time.
The veteran coach also understands that each team has a value all its own and each team, no matter how similar the final result, takes a different path.
“What makes this group special is three years ago, they were a little lost,” Horan confessed. “But they worked incredibly hard, they bought into the system and the style we play. They understand that you come out and play hard every day and you do things the right way and anything is possible.”
Andrew Fehr worked six innings to get the win, Anthony Sulpizzi picked up the save and Dan Wilson got the weakest, but most important hit of his career, as top-seeded Audubon beat second-seeded and defending State Group 1 champion Pennsville 4-3 for the Wave’s first South Jersey sectional title since 2012.
Audubon’s quest for an eighth state title under Horan will resume Tuesday against the winner of the Central Jersey final between Metuchen and Middlesex in a 4 p.m. start at Cumberland County College.
“It seems like a long time ago that I joined this program,” said Wilson, who hit a two-run single in the fifth to give Audubon a 4-3 lead. “The second day of practice I moved up to varsity and it’s been a long road. I’ve learned so much about the game and how to play it. Playing for Audubon is more than just putting on the jersey and the hat.”
Fehr (10-1) battled through six innings in which admittedly he didn’t have his best stuff. Still, the senior who has put the Wave on his back this season both at the plate and on the mound, never surrendered the lead and his two–run double in the third gave Audubon an early 2-0 lead.
“It was a battle,” Fehr said. “This is my family and we do anything for each other. I just wanted to keep us in this game.”
“If you ask me he’s the Player of the Year,” Horan said. “He’s quality. He’s the kid who wants the ball in the biggest games. He wanted it when I won my 500th game. He wanted it today and he’s successful because of how much time he puts into the game.”
Pennsville rallied with single runs in the fourth and fifth innings to tie the game at 2-2, but that’s when fortune smiled on the Wave.
Fehr (1-for-1, two walks, two RBIs) walked to open the fifth. After a perfectly executed bunt single by Ryan Coyle, Pennsville starter Daulton Montagna got the next two outs before he was lifted in favor of reliever C.J. Widger.
Widger fell behind Wilson but worked the count full and Wilson took a big swing at the next pitch, only the result was not a big fly. Instead, Wilson blooped the ball over the second baseman’s head and both runners scored to give Audubon a 4-2 lead.
“That’s the best, worst hit of my life,” Wilson joked. “Looks like a line drive in the box score and I’ll take it.”
“Hey, that’s baseball,” Horan said. “He’s hit balls hard at people enough to get one of those.”
Pennsville scored one in the seventh but Sulpizzi, who showed his ability to relieve early this season when the Wave traveled to Myrtle Beach for a tournament, struck out the final two hitters to secure the win.
“That tournament gave me confidence and it’s been my role the whole year,” the senior said. “At the start of the inning I knew (Fehr) was at 104 pitches. I was just ready to do my job.”
Coincidentally, that’s all Horan has asked from this team since they first put on a green and gold jersey.
Green Wave 4, Eagles 3
WP: Andrew Fehr. LP:Daulton Montagna. 2B: Ryan Gray, Max Dineen, Daulton Montagna, P; Andrew Fehr, A.