MEDFORD - The Lenape High School baseball team couldn’t have ordered a more perfect scenario if the Indians selected the scene from a movie menu.
The surging Indians were playing their best ball of the season.
They were playing Friday for the South Jersey Group 4 championship.
They were at home.
The crowd was huge.
The opponent was a low seed with eight losses.
The weather, well, was as perfect as this scenario.
Really, everything seemed lined up for a historic and memorable afternoon.
Except the final score.
Southern spoiled the day, topping Lenape 6-2 to win the sectional crown.
That’s why, with all the intangibles on their side, putting into perspective what they accomplished and seeing the big picture of an outstanding season wasn’t easy for Lenape afterwards.
“They don't want to hear that right now," coach Phil Fiore said after talking to his team for about 15 minutes. “But to win 20 games and have it come down to playing a game at home and have it turn out that way …”
Indeed, Lenape went 20-7 and finished 8-4 in the rugged Olympic Conference American Division. No one can take away the successful season.
“We didn't have the finish that we wanted to, but a 20-win season can't go unnoticed, especially with a team like this,” said senior outfielder Mike Doulong. “We were successful on and off the field. Our chemistry was great. We had everything.
“It was just this last game.”
Eighth-seeded Lenape managed just five hits – just one for extra bases in a two-run third inning - against 11th-seeded Southern.
“We just really didn't hit well today,” Fiore said. “We didn't get that timely hit when we needed it.”
The Indians put two runners on base in both the fifth and sixth innings with one out, but couldn’t capitalize.
Going cold at the plate was surprising since Lenape had been hot in May with victories over Shawnee, Washington Township and Eastern.
The Indians defeated top-seeded Eastern in the quarterfinals and then pounded No. 4 Rancocas Valley in the semifinals, jumping out to an eight-run lead in the first two frames for an 8-1 win.
Instead, Southern reversed the start by scoring five runs in the first two innings for a swift 5-0 lead.
Lenape sliced into the early lead when Doulong reached base on an error and went to third on a double by Tommy Gardiner. Jake Topolski cleared the bases with a double to tighten the score to 5-2.
“We didn't play our best game defensively,” Fiore added. “We made some poor decisions and Southern capitalized.”
Lenape senior right-hander Mike Audet, who shut down Eastern last Friday, took the loss on the mound.
“I thought Audet threw good enough to win,” Fiore said. “You can't take anything away from their hitters. They did their job.”
Now the job for Lenape is to look back in time and embrace the 20-win season and reaching the sectional final.
“Twenty wins is a big deal for us,” Audet said. “It hasn’t been done in a lot of years; it's the first time it's been done in my high school career, so it's pretty awesome.
“And even though it didn't turn out like we wanted, it's baseball. We had a good run.”