Turnaround Helps Shawnee Earn Second Diamond Classic Title

Turnaround Helps Shawnee Earn Second Diamond Classic Title
It was an amazing turnaround for Shawnee’s baseball team. After losing four of their previous five games the Renegades quickly switched gears in making an impressive run to the Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic championship.
 
This tournament consists of 16 of the best teams in South Jersey and the Renegades prevailed for their first Diamond Classic title since 1990.
 
That year the Renegades beat Haddonfield in the final and once again, 29 years later, the two were playing for the title.
 
Led by senior lefthander Jackson Balzan, the Renegades completed their impressive run with a 2-0 victory in last week’s championship of Haddonfield before a large crowd at Eastern High School.
 
Balzan, who is headed to Salisbury University, allowed six hits in six innings, while striking out four. He kept the potent Haddonfield lineup off-balanced by changing speeds.
 
Dylan Parker earned the save by also changing speeds, going from fast to faster in his one shutout inning.
 
“It feels awesome,” Balzan said afterwards, talking to a group of reporters. “Coming into the season we weren’t ranked or on anybody’s radar, we weren’t a team anybody was talking about.”
 
They are now. The Renegades scored an unearned run in the third inning and added an insurance score in the sixth when E.J Mangione was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.
 
The two runs were more than enough with the way that Balzan and Parker were pitching.
 
Very little came easy for Shawnee in the Diamond. The Renegades opened with a 3-2 win over Highland as Balzan struck out seven in earning the complete-game win. Joe Dalsey, Cole Fleming and Nate Liedtka all had one RBI.
 
Then came one of the most impressive days of the South Jersey season when Shawnee won both the quarterfinal and semifinal games in the Diamond.
 
In the morning, Shawnee defeated defending Non-Public A state champion St. Augustine, mmm4-3. The winning run scored when Connor Coolahan was issued a bases-loaded walk in the eighth inning. Parker earned the win in relief, striking out five in two no-hit innings.
 
Later that afternoon, the Renegades beat Bishop Eustace, 3-1. Jake Carvin earned the win, allowing one run on two hits over five innings. Parker earned the save, striking out four in two innings.
 
Two things helped Shawnee immensely toward its title The Renegades have played so many tight games this season that it seems as if they thrive in these close encounters. The other factor is that the Renegades have one of the toughest schedules in South Jersey in the Olympic Conference American Division.
 
“Grit and determination,” is how Balzan explained it.
 
For Shawnee it was its second Diamond title and fifth championship appearance.
 
“First one since 1990 and there been a lot of good teams and players at Shawnee,” Balzan said. “To win this put our names in the record books and it was amazing.”
 
It is difficult to win any title as Shawnee found out earlier this week when the top seeded Renegades lost to Egg Harbor Township, 5-3 in an opening round South Jersey Group 4 game, making the run for No. 1 in South Jersey wide open.

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Author: Marc Narducci; Photo by Marc Narducci

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