PHILADELPHIA — Every baseball player's dream is to one day play in a professional ballpark.
Monday in a quarterfinal game of the Carpenter Cup, one group of young men from South Jersey was guaranteed to cement their chance to suit up in Citizens Bank Park.
Burlington County defeated Olympic Colonial, 7-5, at Ashburn Field in FDR Park to earn a spot in Thursday's Carpenter Cup semifinals scheduled to be played in the Phillies' stadium. Burlco could face another group of boys from South Jersey in the semis as it will play the winner of Tuesday morning's game between Tri-Cape and SOL National/Bicentennial.
“It was a team goal from the start to make it to Citizens Bank Park,” said Holy Cross sophomore Joe Paolini.
Burlco used a late-inning rally to reach its goal and its spot in the semis.
Trailing 5-4 in the seventh, Burlington County wrestled back the lead and held on. Colin Stringham of Holy Cross led off the sixth with a key double and later scored on a passed ball. Brennan Taylor (Maple Shade) scored the go-ahead run on an error. Burlington County added another run in the eighth on another hit by Stringham scoring Matt Lutz of Maple Shade.
Burlco got off to a quick start. Christian DeLuca (Cinnaminson) hit a two-out double in the first and later scored on a Zachary Gakeler (Northern Burlington) single to give Burlington County an early 1-0 lead. Burlco stuck again in the second highlighted by Isaiah Halls (Burlington Twp) lead-off single and a Nick Corbi (Shawnee) double to give them a 3-0 lead.
Ryan Keen (Eastern) put Olympic-Colonial on the board when he ripped a single scoring John Schoelkopf (Washington Twp).
Paolini blasted a solo home run to left field in the fourth inning and Burlco was up 4-1. “I was just looking for a pitch to hit,” said Paolini who hit his first career home run.
“I only get so many opportunities, thankfully it was a good oppotunity for it to come,” said Paolini, who received a high-five from his father Steve as he rounded third after hitting the long ball. Steve, the coach at Holy Cross, was coaching third base for Burlco.
After cutting the lead to 4-2 in the fifth, Olympic-Colonial stormed back to take the lead in the sixth. Joe Craig (Camden Catholic) scored on a passed ball to put Olympic-Colonial within a run. Then, Jake Thorndike (a junior from Haddonfield) blasted a double to deep center field to tie the game at 4-4. Lucas Rollins (Collingswood) came to the plate and lined a single up the middle to give his team its first lead of the game 5-4.
“I felt very confident, I have been seeing the ball very well lately,” said Rollins, a junior from Collingswood. “I was not looking for a specific pitch, I just wanted to react.”
VOORHEES — With perfect weather on Sunday night, Camden County held its 12th Annual All-Star Baseball Game at Eastern High School on Joe Hartmann Baseball Field. The teams consisted of high school seniors in Camden County who were split into two teams (East and West). For many seniors it was their last high school game.
“It was cool coming out here, it will be the last time playing with my teammate Austin Friedant,” said Tom Flacco of Eastern High School who will be playing football at Western Michigan University in the fall an was also selected in the 32nd round of the MLB First Year Player Draft on Saturday; chose by the Phillies. “I don’t think he knows I caught the last fly out while he was pitching which was pretty cool as well.”
“It was a great experience,” said Andrew Collins of Lindenwold High School. “Games like these are awesome, we came up short to make the playoffs in high school but being able to play here with this group of guys and coaches is just amazing.”
Early on, the game was highlighted by the West's pitching performance by Devin Smeltzer (Bishop Eustace) and Brandon Zachary (Cherry Hill West). In a combined four innings of work, they struck out eight while allowing two runs on two hits.
“My fastball and slider was really working well today. I just attacked them and moved the ball inside and outside of the plate” said Smeltzer, another player selected over the weekend in the draft, taken in the 33rd round by the San Diego Padres.
The West jumped out to a 6-2 lead on key hits by Ian Lynch (Haddon Heights) and Zakary Chiaradia (Audubon).
The aforementioned Collins started a four-run rally by leading off the fourth inning with a triple. Flacco drove in Jack Boran (Winslow Twp.) and Evan Holland (Timber Creek) to cut the deficit to one run. Shane Graham (Overbrook) hit a triple to score Flacco to tie the game at 6-6.
In the eighth, after the West took a 7-6 lead, the East struck again and took the lead back when Tyler Fletcher (Winslow Twp) drove in Thomas Louis (Camden County Tech). Fletcher came around to score on a Kevin Shannon (Triton) hit to make it 8-7.
Andrew Boulden (Gloucester) led off the ninth inning for the West with a single. Joshua Hawkins (Pennsauken) tied the game with an RBI single scoring Boulden. After a John Panchella (Bishop Eustace) walk, he and Hawkins then scored on a miscommunication and error to give the West a 10-8 lead. The West wound up putting together a six-run ninth to finalize a 13-8 game.
‘It was a great experience especially going out there catching Devin,” said Panchella who got to get behind the plate one last time to catch his high school teammate. He and Smeltzer played at Bishop Eustace together. “It was a great way to go out playing on the hometown field since I live in Voorhees.”
Panchella finished the night going 1-for-2 with a single, an RBI, and a run scored for the West. He played three positions throughout the game (catcher, second base, and outfield).
“It was incredible playing with all of my buddies for one last time,” said Joe Craig of Camden Catholic, a shortstop who will be continuing his baseball career at Monmouth University. “The environment was awesome to play in as well.”
PENNSAUKEN — The two, three and four-hole hitters of St. John Vianney’s combined for seven RBIs off of one of South Jersey’s winningest pitchers, and its pitcher, Justin Chin, shut out one of the best lineups in South Jersey.
Eighth-seeded St. John Vianney upset the top seed in the South Jersey Non-Public A bracket, Bishop Eustace, 10-0.
The scoring opened in the top of the third when St. John senior two-hole hitter, Chris Loney, popped a two-run homer over the short porch in right field.
“I chased a fastball, then I saw his slider. I saw another one, and that’s the pitch I took out,” recalled Loney.
The home run was his first of the year.
In the fifth inning, St. John Vianney put together a five-run outburst to stretch the lead to 7-0. Loney knocked in the first run, then St. John’s No. 3 hitter, Joe Rotelli, launched a two-run double deep over the center fielder’s head. Up next, clean up man Evan Pietronico hit a two-run homer to straightaway center.
“I thought it was a pop up off the bat,” admitted Pietronico.
Meanwhile, on the mound, St. John senior southpaw Justin Chin pitched a solid game in a complete game effort.
When asked what the game plan was going in against Eustace, Chin said, “I was supposed to bust right-handers in and keep the ball away from their lefties,” a strategy Chin confirmed was to stay away from Eustace’s short right field fence.
Chin said he got tired in the fifth inning but assured his coach he wanted to finish what he started. He benefitted from great defense behind him. His team made just one error.
Vianney coach Mike Morgan said they had played one other game like that this season defensively, but that the Eustace game was as good one as he thinks his team can play on defense.
“The team has 15 seniors, so I told them to leave it all out there in these playoffs,” said Morgan.
St. John Vianney moves on to play fourth-seeded Christian Brothers Academy on Friday in a South Jersey Non-Public A semifinal. The other Non-Public, South A semifinal will see No. 3 seed St. Augustine visit No. 2 seed Gloucester Catholic at 4 p.m. Friday.
St. Augustine slipped past 11th-seeded Immaculata 3-0 Tuesday and Gloucester Catholic ousted 7th-seeded Camden Catholic 4-1.