South Jersey Baseball Teams Get Ready for the Interesting Part of the Season

South Jersey Baseball Teams Get Ready for the Interesting Part of the Season
So far the first month of the South Jersey high school baseball season has offered few surprises. During the preseason, defending state Non-Public A champion St. Augustine was expected to be the top team in South Jersey.
 
The Hermits are near the top of the various South Jersey rankings
 
Other top teams were expected to be Bishop Eustace, Gloucester Catholic, and Cherry Hill West are among the elite.
 
On Sunday, St. Augustine beat Gloucester Catholic, 3-0, as ace Cole Vanderslice struck out and walked five while pitching six innings.
 
The top teams usually have one thing in common – at least one ace on the staff, but the way the NJSIAA pitching rules are, teams need at least two and more likely three quality pitchers if they want to contend for the No. 1 spot in South Jersey.
 
That is why Cherry Hill West bears watching. The Lions have one of the more experienced teams in South Jersey, led by lefthander Eli Atiya, who began the week 4-0 with a 0.32 ERA.
 
West advanced to the sectional final last season before losing to Seneca in the South Jersey Group 3 final. This season Group 3 is as deep as ever (and we will preview it in coming weeks), but the Lions have the pitching and offense to make a potential deep run.
 
The next month will really determine the top teams. That is because the 16-team Joe Hartman Diamond Classic is right around the corner, to be followed by the NJSIAA state tournament.
 
The Diamond Classic invites 16 of the top teams in South Jersey of all Group sizes.
 
The tournament will be picked this week and the first-round games must be played by May 8. The second round and semifinals will be on May 11 with the final May 15 at Eastern.
 
This year the Diamond moved up a week and that could change how teams use their pitchers. Most recently, the Diamond would end the day before the state tournament began. Coaches would have to often choose whether to use their pitchers in the Diamond or the state tourney.
 
Now this year the Diamond championship is soon, so teams should have their pitchers fresh for the state tournament, which begins on May 20.
 
As prestigious as it is to win the Diamond, teams really gear up for the state tournament. That often has a great impact on the rankings.
 
Either way, teams will be building their resumes because many are still battling for conference titles. It’s ideal that most teams will be finished their conference races before the state tournament, but sometimes makeup games occur, so that is something else to watch in terms of how pitchers are used.
 
The baseball season is so quick. The first month often finds teams getting used to the weather. Once May hits, many of the games have deep meaning.

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Author: Marc Narducci; Photo by Marc Narducci

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