• Dan Russoman

Hammonton ousted from playoffs


Joe Perna dives across the plate to score a run in Hammonton’s playoff win against Toms River East last week. (THG/Dan Russoman.To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

BAYVILLE—Central Regional High School’s baseball team overcame an early three-run deficit to defeat Hammonton 7-3 last weekend, ousting the Blue Devils from the South Jersey Group 3 playoffs.


Central, the third seed in the tournament, scored a run in the fifth and three in the bottom of the sixth to complete its comeback victory.


“We made some mistakes that hurt us and couldn’t add on to the lead we had,” Hammonton coach Gregg Silvesti said.


Facing Central ace Cam Leiter, Hammonton took a patient approach at the plate, making the tall right-hander work deep into counts. The Blue Devils stranded a pair of runners in the top of the first, but had Leiter on the ropes.


“We got his pitch count up early in the game. He [Leiter] was working hard and it was a hot day,” Silvesti said.


The Blue Devils broke through against Leiter in the top of the third, as David Humphries led off with a single and Gavin West followed with a base hit before Lucas DeStefano launched a long home run over the right field fence to give Hammonton a 3-0 lead.


The home run was DeStefano’s fifth in four games.


“Nobody’s swinging a hotter bat than Lucas,” Silvesti said.


Hammonton had some early momentum, but a few costly miscues allowed Central to claw back into the game.


A pair of errors in the bottom of the third led to two runs for the Golden Eagles.


“We’re normally a really good team defensively, but we made some mistakes in that inning and really gave them two runs,” Silvesti said.


Until that inning, Hammonton starter Lukas Guerrier had been cruising. With one out, Guerrier appeared to strike out Central’s Dom Masino, but the home plate umpire called the pitch a ball, and Masino walked. Blue Devils catcher Anthony Leo fired a throw to first base, but the ball went into right field, allowing Masino to reach second and sending another runner to third.


“That kind of changed the whole inning. We thought we had two out and a guy on first, and instead it was one out and runners at second and third,” Silvesti said.


A sacrifice fly scored one run and another run scored on Shane Sajewicz’s single.


Central tied the game in the fourth, after Leiter singled and moved to third after a walk and sacrifice bunt. Silvesti lifted Guerrier for Jared Beebe, who coaxed a ground ball from Cristian Soto that scored the tying run before he struck out Grant Tillet to end the inning.


The Golden Eagles grabbed the lead in the bottom of the fifth when Evan Agrapides hit a solo home run.


Central thwarted a pair of Hammonton threats in the fifth and sixth innings, turning double plays to end both frames.


“We had chances but didn’t get a hit when we needed it,” Silvesti said.


Central pulled away in the bottom of the sixth, as Anthony Musso hit a two-run homer to put the Golden Eagles on top 6-3, and later in the inning, a wild pitch allowed Billy Sottilare to score another run.


Hammonton rallied in the top of the seventh, but stranded a pair of runners without adding another run.


“Their second pitcher [Connor Shea] did a great job. He threw a little slower than what we’re used to seeing and sometimes that just gets your timing off and we didn’t hit him well,” Silvesti said.


Earlier in the week, Hammonton won its playoff opener against Toms River East 10-0.


The Blue Devils scored four times in the bottom of the first, as DeStefano hit a two-run home run and Drew Haines and D.J. Adamucci each drove in runs later in the inning.


In the second, Gavin West doubled and he and DeStefano scored on Beebe’s double to give Hammonton a 6-0 lead.


The Devils added four more runs in the fourth, with Joe Perna driving in one, Adamucci adding a two-run double, and another run scoring on an error.


Humphries earned the win, striking out four in five innings of work.


The loss to Central gave Hammonton a 13-8 record for the season.


“I think we did pretty well this year. I don’t think anyone really thought we’d be here, in the second round of the playoffs and a six seed, so we put together a pretty strong season,” Silvesti said.