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  • Writer's pictureDan Russoman

Hammonton advances to Group 3 semis

THG/Dan Russoman. To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940. Lukas Guerrier delivers a pitch early in Hammonton’s South Jersey Group 3 playoff game against Highland.

HAMMONTON—Kole Bagnell drove in two runs and Lukas Guerrier worked in and out of trouble for five innings to help lead Hammonton High School’s baseball team to an 8-4 win against Highland in a South Jersey Group 3 quarterfinal playoff game on May 25.

“We always find a way to make it interesting,” Hammonton coach Gregg Silvesti said of a game that saw the Blue Devils hold on to post their fourth-straight win and ninth victory in 11 games.

“We’re really playing well right now. We had an up and down season, but the last few weeks we’ve been starting to put it all together. Our pitching has been good and we’re hitting the ball well,” Silvesti said.

The win sends Hammonton into the semifinals for the second-straight season. Last year, the Blue Devils lost in the semis to Delsea.

“We really felt we played well enough to win that game [against Delsea]. Now we’re back in the same spot and we’ll see if we can get to the finals,” Silvesti said.

The win against Highland was far from easy, as the Blue Devils were able to manufacture runs while frustrating a Tartans team that was unable to take advantage of several scoring chances.

Highland loaded the bases with no one out in the top of the first, but failed to score.

Guerrier, who hit the leadoff batter with the first pitch of the game then allowed back-to-back singles, escaped the jam when C.J. Crowley lined to short and the lead runner was doubled off of third for a double play. After another single loaded the bases again, Guerrier coxed a ground ball force out to retire the side.

“He made it interesting to start the game, but was able to work through it. Lukas has looked really good his last few starts and he threw a great game today,” Silvesti said.

Hammonton made Highland pay for the missed opportunity in the bottom of the first, scoring twice for an early lead.

Bagnell and Drew Haines each singled with one out, and both runners advanced a base on a wild pitch. A passed ball allowed Bagnell to score and Drew Fields followed with a sacrifice fly to right to drive in Haines.

Highland got a run back in the second, after Guerrier hit another batter and gave up a pair of hits, one an RBI single from Eric Ramos.

With the lead trimmed to a run, Guerrier settled down in the third, striking out the side around a walk.

Highland was able to tie the game in the fourth, scoring on back-to-back singles.

Hammonton answered back in the bottom of the inning, batting around and scoring four runs to break the game open.

Fields and Gavin West each singled to start the rally, and Eric Barts loaded the bases when he reached on a bunt. Two batters later, Paul Kalani walked to drive in a run and Matt McAleer followed with an RBI single. Bagnell then reached on an error, scoring two more runs.

Guerrier allowed a one-out double in the fifth, but did not allow a run, and in the its half of the inning, Hammonton added two more runs. Fields singled and West hit a double before Barts’s sacrifice fly drove in one run and later in the inning, Jonathan Calderone’s pinch-hit single drove in another.

THG/Dan Russoman. To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940. Jonathan Calderone connects for a hit late in Hammonton’s South Jersey Group 3 playoff game against Highland on May 25.

Brayden Markart came on to relieve Guerrier in the top of the sixth, and Highland rallied for two runs.

Markart was able to close out the win in the seventh, stranding one runner.

“This was a huge win for us. We’re starting to get on a roll and we just hope we can carry it into next week,” Silvesti said.

Hammonton had 12 hits in the win and received some clutch pitching as well.

“Our lineup is deep. Guys like Drew Haines and Kole [Bagnell] have been on fire the last few games. And Lukas was great. He’s really been our number one [pitcher] for the last three years. He started a playoff game as a freshman, then last year he and Markart were outstanding and this year, he’s healthy again and pitching very well,” Silvesti said.

Hammonton reached the quarterfinals after defeating Timber Creek 8-1 on May 22.

In that game, the Blue Devils scored three times in the fourth and three more runs in the sixth to cruise to the win.

Bagnell went 3-for- 4 with a double, a triple, one RBI, two runs scored. West added three hits, McAleer had a pair of doubles and Austin Schoell doubled in the win.

Jamison McNally worked six and one-third strong innings for the victory.

Hammonton hosted a semifinal game on May 30 against Mainland. That game ended too late for this edition. The winner will take on the winner of Delsea and Cherry Hill West on June 2.

THG/Dan Russoman. To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940. Kole Bagnell crosses the plate to score a run in Hammonton’s win against Highland.


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