TOMS RIVER – Kevin Eaise did his best to not allow his emotions to seep through as he stood taking questions on the infield dirt.
The St. Augustine junior spoke for his team in a mature manner far beyond his years and yet, there was no mistaking his disappointment about the Hermits' failure to win one final game in this campaign.
“We knew that (Delbarton starter Billy) Price was going to come out strong,” Eaise said. “We’ve been in close games all year and knew this one wasn’t going to be any different.
“We were waiting to break through. We’ve done it all year, we almost did it again.”
Delbarton freshman Kyle Vinci hit a single up the middle with one out in the bottom of the seventh off closer Cole Vanderslice and Mark Darakjy scored from second to propel the Green wave (24-7) to a 2-1 win over St. Augustine (24-7) in the Non-Public A championship game at Toms River East High School on Saturday.
In a pitcher’s duel, in which the two teams combined for just five hits, it took a perfect bounder up the middle to settle the game.
“I started thinking about next year as soon as that run scored,” Hermits head coach Mike Bylone said. “I thought about the legacy that this class of seniors is leaving behind. We’ve reached this game two straight years and we have a lot of young talent. I think a win would have been something to build on but this was a great game and I’m proud of the way my kids played."
Eaise worked six-plus innings and kept the potent top of the Delbarton lineup from doing much damage. Both Eaise and Price allowed base runners but only two runners, one apiece, reached scoring position over the first six innings.
“The objective was to keep the game tight,” said Eaise, who struck out five. “I think both teams knew that this would be a low scoring game."
Tied at 1-1 in the seventh, Darakjy walked and Bylone went to Vanderslice despite Eaise being at just 75 pitches. On a warm day, the move made sense as Vanderslice has been dominant all year and a big part of the Hermits' success.
After a sacrifice fly, Vinci came in as a pinch-hitter. After he hit one foul, Vinci hit a hard ground ball up the middle. An attempt to get him out at the plate was made but Darakjy got his hand in and the game was over.
“It’s very tough,” Bylone said. “That was an excellent baseball game. Somebody has to lose but that’s a tough way to lose.
“In a game like this, everyone knows it comes down to one play here or one play there. We had a few close calls at first but those weren’t the reason we lost. Again, that was a great game and someone had to lose. It was us.”
How long the Hermits, ranked No. 1 in the SJSD Top 10, will dwell on this loss is anyone’s guess but maybe more can be read out of Eaise's stoic interview after the game. Maybe more can be taken out of a high school junior, eyes hidden by white sunglasses, carefully expressing his disappointment.
“We felt the same thing after last year,” Eaise said. “But this year, maybe a little less was expected from us and that’s not going to be the case next year.
“Hopefully we have a little different interview next year.’
Green Wave 2, Hermits 1
St. Augustine 000 001 0 - 1 3 1
Delbarton 010 000 1 - 2 2 2
WP: Billy Price. LP: Kevin Eaise. 2B: Mark Darakjy, D
The Hermits saw their season come to an end in the Non-Public A Final against Delbarton in a 2-1 loss at Toms River East on Saturday.
April 3: win Mainland, 6-2
April 4: loss Millville 3-1
April 4: win Atlantic Tech 23-1
April 5: win Atlantic City 11-0
April 7: win Bridgeton 12-2
April 11: win Hun 4-0
April 15: win Williamstown 3-1
April 20: win Kingsway 9-6
April 22: loss Malvern Prep, 8-3
April 28: win Bridgeton 24-3
April 29: loss Old Bridge 1-0
April 30: win Gloucester Cath 8-6
May 1: win Millville 6-4
May 3: loss Holy Spirit 10-8
May 4: win Vineland 10-0
May 10: win Egg Harbor 2-0
May 12: win Atlantic Tech 7-4
May 14: win Haddonfield 3-2 Diamond 1st Round
May 15: win Clearview 11-6
May 16: win Atlantic City 16-0
May 17: win Ocean City 5-2
May 19: loss Egg Harbor 6-5
May 20: win Wash Twp. 7-4 Diamond Quarters
May 21: win Shawnee 2-0 Diamond Semis
May 21: Gloucester Catholic 8-5 Diamond Final
May 24: win Holy Cross, 4-3
May 27: loss Vineland, 2-1
May 31: win St. John Vianney, 9-1, SJ Quarters
June 2: win Red Bank Cath., 7-3, SJ Semis
June 6: win Bishop Eustace, 4-3 SJ Final
June 10: loss Delbarton 2-1 State Final