If familiarity can breed contempt, St. Augustine, ranked No.1 in the SJSD Top 10, has used it to its advantage this year.
The Hermits (22-3) beat No.2 Bishop Eustace 3-1 in the 45th Annual Joe Hartmann Classic on Sunday. The two teams have seen plenty of each other over the last two years with the Hermits securing a South Jersey Non-Public A title last season with a win over the Crusaders. A loss earlier this year to Eustace set up a rematch on Sunday, with the Hermits getting a 3-1 win.
“Once your juices start going, you want to beat them and you do anything you can to get the advantage,” St. Augustine coach Mike Bylone told nj.com.
The Hermits are one of only a few teams this year that don’t have that “bad loss” on their resume. They’ll have a challenge on Tuesday against upstart No. 6 Paul VI before they get a potential third meeting with Eustace.
“You can say we know (Eustace),” Bylone said after a win in the Diamond quarterfinals against Seneca. “It’s becoming a good rivalry.”
A rivalry that could be renewed on Friday in South Jersey semifinals.
Bishop Eustace may be out of the Diamond Classic, but the top goal remains the same.
“A state title is always the top of the list,” Eustace head coach Sam Tropiano said earlier this year. “We have several objectives every season but the state is always our top target.”
The Crusaders (21-4) also realize that while they have a deeper lineup, one comparable to the 2010 squad, their biggest hurdle in winning South Jersey is the Hermits and their deep staff. It’s why Sky Duff didn’t get the start on Sunday against the Hermits.
The reason of course is two-fold, Eustace needs pitching this week despite an offense that has put up double digit runs in 7-of-8 games. It also doesn’t need for the Hermits lineup to see Duff or Matt Orlando more than once in a week.
Either way, Tropiano’s troop will be ready for Friday if the rubber game of a three-game series this year come to fruition.
With the rain over the past two weeks, the Diamond Classic schedule has been anything but easy to traverse.
St. Augustine is already in and will play the winner of Washington Township and Eastern, next Saturday in a 2 p.m. start. Township and Eastern will meet on Tuesday in a 4 p.m. start.
No.3 Eastern has had a solid season but an early ouster from the Group 4 tournament has the Viking in a win at all costs position. Meanwhile the Minutemen have struggled for the better part of the year and barely made the Diamond with a 13-12 record. They do have a pair of wins over Eastern.
There is plenty of discussion on how to make the Diamond Classic better. That's not a shot at the current edition, it's more about small changes that can make the tournament and it's schedule better for all teams involved.
Word on the street has there being a push to start the tournament on the Tuesday after the pairings are announced with the final a week later on a Tuesday night. It also appears that after years of coaches, players, fans and administration clamoring for teams to be seeded, it is finally going to happen.
A move to the leadoff spot hasn't changed Jack Billings approach to his preparation but it has had an influence on his approach at the plate.
"I see more fastballs," Billings said. "But my routine doesn't change."
Billings hit three home runs in two games this weekend to lead the Hermiits into the Diamond Classic Finals.
1. St. Augustine (22-3) 1
2. Bishop Eustace (21-4) 2
3. Eastern (22-6) 3
4. Seneca (17-6) 4
5. Gloucester Catholic (16-8) 7
6. Paul VI (15-8) 8
7. Shawnee (16-8) 9
8. Haddonfield 15-5) NR
9. Delran (18-5) NR
10. Ocean City (16-5) NR
Tag(s): Home Gloucester Catholic Cherry Hill West Eastern Regional Bishop Eustace Paul VI St. Augustine Prep Schools Tri-County Conference Olympic Conference Cape-Atlantic League Colonial Conference West Deptford Shawnee Burlington Co. League Seneca Delran