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  • Writer's pictureDan Russoman

Blue Devils avoid first-round upset

Dan Russoman/THG.

HAMMONTON—A bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the eighth inning gave Hammonton High School’s baseball team a 3-2 win against a pesky Triton team as the Blue Devils avoided a first-round upset loss in the South Jersey Group 3 playoffs on May 22.

Miscues in the field and on the bases allowed Triton to keep Hammonton off the scoreboard for much of the game and also helped the Mustangs take an early lead and maintain it for most of the game.

Hammonton’s Brayden Markart and Triton’s Nick Reckert battled for six innings as the pair of southpaws both worked in and out of trouble.

“Brayden [Markart] hung in there and kept us in the game. We didn’t always help him in the field today, but he fought through it,” Hammonton coach Gregg Silvesti said.

Both teams stranded runners in the first and Triton broke through in the third, taking advantage of a pair of ground balls misplayed by Hammonton shortstop Kole Bagnell.

“That’s not me,” Bagnell said.

“I have to make those plays,” he said.

The mistakes allowed Triton to take a 2-0 lead

Triton never threatened to score again, as Markart settled in and worked easily through the Mustangs lineup the next three innings.

Hammonton hit the ball hard against Reckert, but many were ground balls snatched up quickly by a solid Triton infield. Shortstop Jason Good frustrated the Blue Devils, ranging to retire several Hammonton hitters.

“They were excellent defensively. I think their shortstop [Good] threw out around 12 guys today,” Silvesti said.

Baserunning mistakes hurt Hammonton. In the second, a runner was doubled off third base for the final out of the inning and in the sixth another poor decision on the bases resulted in a runner thrown out trying to score from third.

Hammonton did manage to score a run in the sixth, cutting Triton’s lead in half, and in the bottom of the seventh, the Blue Devils tied the game when Gavin Kovacs led off with a single and scored on Jaxon Miller’s bunt single. The Blue Devils missed a chance to win the game when they had the bases loaded and one out, but Triton turned a double play to end the threat and send the game into extra innings.

After reliever Lukas Guerrier set the Mustangs down in order in the top of the eighth, Hammonton was able to take advantage of some wildness from Triton relief pitcher Justin Garcia. Jonathan Calderone walked to start the inning for Hammonton, and Jaiden Franchetti bunted but Garcia threw the ball high to first, allowing Franchetti to reach and pinch runner Ethan Peterson to move to second. Austin Schoell’s bunt moved both runner and with one out, Kovacs drew a seven-pitch walk to load the bases for Bagnell, who walked on four pitches to drive in the winning run.

The game was closer than Hammonton wanted it to be but the Blue Devils were pleased to avoid an upset.

“Definitely not how we wanted it to go, but we’ll take it. You have to win four games [to win the South Jersey title] and sometimes the first one is the toughest. I told our guys before the game that in 2009, we barely won the first game maybe by a run and went on to win the championship. So, hopefully that’ll repeat for us this year,” Silvesti said.

Guerrier earned the win in relief for Hammonton, striking out two in two shutout innings. Markart finished the day with 10 strikeouts.


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