Most coaches will tell you that when a new season starts, there are plenty of question marks.
How will our pitching hold up? Who will step up and lead? Will the newcomers be able to handle the moment?
When Mike Bylone looked at his roster in March, the St. Augustine Prep baseball coach saw a lot of youth. There were a number of young players, guys still lacking a great deal of varsity experience, who were going to be thrown into the fire and asked to produce.
“To be honest, I felt we were probably a year away,” Bylone recalled. “We lost quite a few key seniors in certain spots. That’s why we played a lot of scrimmages in March. We played six games in Myrtle Beach just to figure out what we had.
“As time went by, some kids stepped in.”
In April and May, the Hermits showed that maybe they didn’t need that year of experience. Maybe they were already good enough, just in need of some tweaking here and there.
And to be playing on the last day of the season, Championship Saturday in June, the boys in blue and white from Richland proved that this was their time.
Reaching the Non-Public A state final against Delbarton and winning the prestigious Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic, St. Augustine Prep finished the season 24-7 overall. The Hermits handed Non-Public B champion Gloucester Catholic two of its three losses on the year and won 14 of their last 17 games.
For its efforts this spring, St. Augustine wraps up the 2017 season as the top-ranked team in the SJSD Top 10.
“At the beginning of the year, we were a lot of individuals all spread out. Now we’re a cohesive unit,” said Bylone, who was selected as the South Jersey Baseball Coaches Association’s Coach of the Year. “It takes games, takes time. You have to experience it. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. This group jelled and it was a big factor.
“I’m most proud of the six seniors. I’ve always preached to the seniors at the beginning of each season that it was their team, their year. It was up to them to take ownership. With younger kids, it’s not always the easiest transition. This senior group took them under their wing and showed them the Prep baseball way; they gave them leadership. That not only helped the program this year, but it will help down the road.”
In finishing right behind the Hermits in the final rankings, Gloucester Catholic lost to only St. Augustine (twice) and Bergen Catholic. The Rams won 14 of their last 15 games, capped with the 18th state championship in program history - the most of any school in the state.
“Everyone was willing to sacrifice themselves for the good of the team,” said second-year coach Adam Tussey, owner of a 52-7 record with the team. “It started at the top with the seniors and just trickled down to the younger guys.”
Bishop Eustace had a strong campaign, finishing at No. 3. The Crusaders reached the Non-Public A South final, won the Olympic National and finished 23-7 overall. Two players – junior Sky Duff and sophomore Matt Orlando – were named to the South Jersey Baseball Coaches Association’s All-South Jersey team.
Lenape proved to be the region’s top public school. The Indians are No. 4 and were a South Jersey Group 4 finalist.
Eastern, which won the Camden County Tournament and tied with Lenape for second in the Olympic American, rounds out the top five. The Vikings were 22-7 overall, with seniors Davis Schneider and Louis Priolo also making the All-South Jersey team.
The remaining five in the final Top 10 includes Burlco Liberty champion Rancocas Valley, Egg Harbor Township, Olympic American champion Shawnee, South Jersey Group 1 and Colonial Liberty winner Audubon and Highland, which won South Jersey Group 3 and Tri-County Royal championships.
1. St. Augustine 24-7 (Previous ranking: 1)
2. Gloucester Catholic 28-3 (2)
3. Bishop Eustace 23-7 (4)
4. Lenape 21-7 (5)
5. Eastern 22-7 (3)
6. Rancocas Valley 18-5 (7)
7. Egg Harbor Twp. 20-5 (6)
8. Shawnee 19-6 (9)
9. Audubon 25-5 (10)
10. Highland 19-7 (NR)
Tag(s): Home Gloucester Catholic Eastern Regional Bishop Eustace St. Augustine Prep Schools Tri-County Conference Olympic Conference Cape-Atlantic League Colonial Conference Lenape Shawnee Burlington Co. League Audubon Highland Egg Harbor Township Rancocas Valley