PENNSVILLE – Adam Laskey has a lot to look forward to.
He’s already committed to Duke University and as only a junior, still has another year in his high school career.
On Tuesday afternoon, he helped give his Haddon Heights High School baseball team something to look forward to – hosting a South Jersey Group I championship Friday.
Laskey pitched a complete game against No. 2 Pennsville in a semifinal matchup, scattering six hits while striking out nine in an 8-1 victory for the third-seeded Garnets.
“We were ready for this going in,” Laskey said. “We knew at the start of the season that if we were going to do something this year, we would have to see (Pennsville) down the road. Last year we had a big upset against Haddonfield on the road, so we knew we could do it again.”
The ace only got better as the game wore on, starting the bottom of the sixth inning by snaring a comebacker and striking out three batters over the final two frames.
“Adam pitched a great game, a phenomenal game,” Heights center fielder Jesse Weick said. “He gave us confidence and he had a good game at the plate (with two hits). He was awesome.”
Weick had a pretty solid game himself, leading the offense with three RBIs and two runs scored on the afternoon. Heights grabbed a 3-0 lead in the top of the third, then added three runs in the fifth and two in the sixth – courtesy of a two-run double by Weick.
“We started off the season a little rough,” Weick said. “But we worked hard and kept our composure and it’s all coming together now.”
Skylar Glover and Frank Delaney each had two RBIs in the win for Heights (17-7 overall), their 10th in 11 games. Eddie Camp and John Straub both tripled in the loss for the Eagles (15-9), with Jeremy Boucher knocking in the only run.
“It’s hard to be as strong as we were last year,” Pennsville head coach Matt O’Brien said. “But we had a good nucleus of kids coming back and we expected to be playing for a South Jersey championship. We weren’t giving in to what people were saying – we believed we would be there.
“But we ran into a really hot team, a really good team. And that Laskey kid is pretty legit.”
With the other semifinal in the bracket being played between No. 5 Wildwood and No. 8 Gateway, the Garnets knew a win would guarantee a home game for the title. They’ll have two days off before hosting the championship against the Warriors, who toppled the Gators 10-6.
“We knew we were the higher seed no matter who won,” Laskey said. “I think it will be the first time in program history that we will have a home (title) game. We talked about it before the game, about having the community there to support us.
“We’re just really excited to keep it going.”
HADDON HTS. – There was a sniff of an upset prevailing in the air around the Haddon Heights baseball complex Friday afternoon – but just a hint, mind you.
Then up to the plate stepped big Skyler Glover, Haddon Heights High School’s imposing 6-foot 4-inch first baseman who will play baseball for Rutgers-Camden next season. With one swing, the party was all but over for a scrappy 11th-seeded Schalick team looking for a second straight South Jersey Group 1 playoff victory.
With a runner on first and no one out in the bottom of the fifth inning, Glover slammed a two-run homer about 315 feet over the short right-field fence. That broke open a close game, giving the third-seeded Garnets a 5-2 lead and proving to be a turning point. The host team erupted for eight runs in the frame en route to a 12-2 quarterfinal triumph in six innings.
“I was looking to put a good line drive into play, and I was lucky to get all of it,” said Glover, who collected his fourth roundtripper and 23rd and 24th RBIs of the season. “I was in the right spot at the right time. But if wasn’t me, someone would have picked up the slack – we’re very solid from one to nine in our lineup on the hitting end.”
Glover’s home run clearly woke up the Garnets’ offense. They scored six more runs in the inning off hard-luck Schalick southpaw Ethan Collins. highlighted by an RBI single from Eric Wood and an RBI double from Jesse Weick compounded by two Schalick errors.
For Haddon Heights (16-6 overall), which had beaten the Cougars (11-12) 14-3 earlier in May, Tom Daley collected three hits and an RBI while Glover stroked two hits and had two RBIs. Conor Beckus also contributed three hits while Ryan Lynch collected a pair of hits.
The victory propels Haddon Heights into a decisive Group 1 sectional semifinal game at second-seeded Pennsville on Tuesday.
“We’re playing at a high level right now and that’s important in the playoffs,” said coach Eric Newell, whose Garnets are seeking their first sectional championship since 1978. “We will need everything going in our favor when we play Pennsville next week. That should be a great game.”
Earlier, the Cougars erased a 3-0 Haddon Heights lead to move within 3-2 and nearly took the lead. Schalick had captured its first playoff win in 19 years when it upset Palmyra earlier in the week, and the Cougars were chomping at the bit to pull off a second straight playoff upset.
Tom Daley, Frank Delaney and Billy Watson each knocked in runs in the first two innings to give the Garnets (18-6) a fast 3-0 lead. Heights starter Alec Stein was moving along nicely before opening the fourth inning by walking Zack Casper and surrendering a double to Dante Camilli. Hunter Brelsford also walked to load the bases before teammate Shawn Vasquez ripped a two-run double to put Schalick on the board. Stein then got a groundout to first to end the threat.
But despite giving up the two runs in the fourth, Stein settled down to finish with a three-hitter and five strikeouts to improve his record to 5-0 on the season.
“I lost my release point in that inning and couldn’t hit my spots,” said Stein, who surrendered two walks and a pair of doubles in the frame. “Once I corrected this, I was able to handle their lineup. Winning a big game like this feels really good. We’re looking forward to the semifinals.”
Reach Gus Ostrum at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Haddon Hts. 12, Schalick 2