PENNSAUKEN – There was plenty going on at Bishop Eustace Prep on Friday afternoon.
A visit from “more than an acquaintance” St. Augustine in the South Jersey Non-Public A semifinals had the benefit of being the third meeting between the two programs this year. Played on the Crusaders home field, known for it’s short porch in right field that regularly brings Rout 70 into play, had plenty of offense. It had the prerequisite animosity between two fanbases and more than a little chirping on the field.
Most of all it had a season defining moment, one in which either the Hermits, ranked No.1 in the SJSD Top 10, or the No.2 Crusaders could secure the top spot in South Jersey. In a script that could be laughed out of Hollywood, that moment was handed to Hermits Kenny Levari.
“Things were said,” the usually mild-mannered sophomore said. “It was a fun game. The best game of my life.
“Cole Vanderslice’s brother Distin told me this was my time to shine.”
Levari’s second home run of the game, a three-run shot in the top of the seventh handed the Hermits a 12-11 win over Eustace in a game that had plenty of signature moments. In a game that featured four changes, a blown six-run lead and a pair of controversial calls – one apiece – it was seventh home run of the game and fourth for the Hermits that made the difference. Augustine (24-3) will now host the South Jersey Non-Public A Final on Tuesday against Notre Dame, a 4-1 winner over Red Bank Catholic in search of a second straight title.
““Even with the matchup of Matt (Orlando for Bishop Eustace) and Cole (Vanderslice), you knew you had to score runs,” St. Augustine head coach Mike Bylone said. “We’ve played too many games on this field to know that no lead is safe.
“Actually, coming in we thought it would take four runs to win,” Eustace head coach Sam Tropiano said. “But we were wrong. I guess the heat got to both staffs a bit.
After Eustace posted six runs to take an 11-9 lead after six, Augustine responded with two quick base runners to bring Levari to the plate. Levari, who also had a double and six RBIs total, took one pitch before he launched a shot to right-center that no one doubted for a second would stay within the confines of the ballpark.
“I knew right away,” said Levari, who turned and let out a bellow as he began his trip around the bases. “That was to our fans. It’s a big moment.”
St. Augustine 106 020 3 -- 12-11-2
Bishop Eustace 112 016 0 -- 11- 9-2
WP: James Weston. LP: Nick Dziuba. S: Gerry Peacock. 2B: Kenny Levari, SA; Mike Guzzardo, BE. HR: Kenny Levari 2, Josh Hood, Jack Billings, SA; Ryan Colbert, John Piacentino, BE.