Olympic American Div. Showing Strength

Olympic American Div. Showing Strength Olympic American Division Showing Strength in NJSIAA Baseball Tournament

While Bishop Eustace of the Olympic Conference National Division has deservedly gained the baseball headlines, the teams in the Olympic American have enjoyed another slugfest this season.

This is a constant topic in numerous South Jersey sports, but the heavyweights from the American Division continue to produce excellent results in all sports.

Eustace, which began the week the consensus No. 1 team in South Jersey, is a certified South Jersey powerhouse. Yet there are many of the other top teams in South Jersey competing in the American Division, which by far has the most depth in South Jersey.

One American Division team (Eastern) advanced to the Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic final only to lose to Eustace, 4-1.

We talked about the American Division’s strength in an earlier story on the Diamond Classic, but it is exemplified when one looks at the NJSIAA tourney.

Six American Division teams qualified for the always difficult South Jersey Group 4 tournament and one is guaranteed a spot in the championship. Those six are top seeded Eastern, No. 6 Cherry Hill West, No. 8 Lenape, No. 12 Washington Township, No. 13 Cherokee, and No. 15 Shawnee. The fact that these teams have had to meet each other twice in the regular season prepares them for the state tournament. Of course, the other argument is that they beat each other up so much (in a figurative sense), that some have little left for the state tourney.

Either way, after two rounds, two American Division teams remain among the final four and even some of the losses were impressive.

Take Shawnee for instance. The Renegades had to travel to No. 2 seeded Toms River North for a first round game. TR North in particular, and the Toms River area in general, is known as a baseball hotbed. And Shawnee stretched the Mariners to the limit before Toms River North won a 3-2 first-round game in eight innings.

Toms River North needed a successful suicide squeeze bunt in the bottom of the eighth inning to earn the hard-fought win. That was against a Shawnee team that ended with a 9-13 record, but as they did in the playoffs the Renegades had played well against rugged competition.

Another interesting quarterfinal result was between two American Division teams as No. 12 Cherokee defeated No. 13 Washington Township. As one can tell by their seeds, both had to go on the road and defeat highly touted first round opponents. Washington Township downed No. 5 Kingsway, 9-0 and Cherokee defeated No. 4 Rancocas Valley, 11-0.

So in the quarterfinal, it was Cherokee edging Washington Township, 2-1. Cherokee grinded out two unearned runs, with the game-winner a sacrifice fly by Shane Albertson. It was the third time Cherokee defeated Township this season, but after a rout in the first game, the last two were close. That included a 2-0 Chiefs win on May 4.

And Cherokee’s gift for winning was a semifinal matchup with defending South Jersey Group 4 champion Eastern, guaranteeing an American Division team in the title game. And once again, this showcased the division’s strength, something that has become an annual tradition in baseball and many other sports.

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Author: Marc Narducci

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