Hammonton stuns Mainland
LINWOOD—Brayden Markart tossed a three-hit shutout, leading Hammonton High School’s baseball team into the South Jersey Group 3 semifinals with a 3-0 win against host Mainland Regional last weekend.
The victory was the second-straight upset win for the Blue Devils, the 10th seed in the tournament.
“Our guys have really embraced the underdog role,” Hammonton coach Gregg Silvesti said.
“We don’t have the best record (11-16) in the world, but I really think we played the toughest schedule in South Jersey, maybe in the state, this year. We knew those games, even though we lost, would prepare us for this and we’re showing that we’re a really good team,” Silvesti said.
Against Mainland, Markart, who has quietly developed into Hammonton’s ace, was brilliant, keeping the host Mustangs off balance with a mix of off-speed pitches.
“He [Markart] is a fly ball pitcher and you saw that today. He won’t get a lot of strikeouts, but he puts the ball around the plate and throws strikes,” Silvesti said.
Markart, a sophomore, joined Hammonton’s rotation midway through the season.
“He didn’t even pitch for us last year. We weren’t sure what to expect, but he’s been big for us,” Silvesti said.
Markart was coming off a three-inning outing in Hammonton’s opening round win at Toms River South and said he was ready to go against Mainland.
“I felt great. The team had a lot of energy and we were really into it. I knew I just had to pitch and throw my game. My fastball was tailing and I was hitting the corners. We made some great plays in the field,” Markart said.
Coming off a win, the Blue Devils came into last weekend’s quarterfinal matchup confident and scored the only run they would need in the top of the first inning.
Matt McAleer reached on an error to lead off the game, and another Mainland miscue allowed Austin Schoell to reach. Two batters later, D.J. Adamucci lined a single into center field, scoring McAleer for a 1-0 lead.
From there, the game was a pitchers’ duel between Markart and Mainland’s Cohen Cook, as both worked out of trouble for four innings.
Markart stranded runners in the second and third innings, while Hammonton threatened but was unable to score in both the second and third.
The Blue Devils left the bases loaded in the top of the fourth, and Mainland left a runner on second in the bottom of the inning.
Twice in the game, Hammonton had runners thrown out at the plate.
“We were aggressive, maybe a little too much, but I knew we probably weren’t going to score many runs, so I tried to make something happen,” Silvesti said.
The Blue Devils finally broke through in the top of the fifth. McAleer led off with a single and Lukas Guerrier reached on an error before Gavin West loaded the bases with a single. That hit knocked Cohen out of the game, and Mainland coach Billy Kern turned to sophomore fire-baller Finnegan Haines, who struck out Adamucci before Landon Haines sent a hard ground ball down the third base line for a two-run hit that put Hammonton ahead 3-0.
That was all the Blue Devils would get, as Finnegan Haines struck out the seven in three innings of work.
Mainland drew a leadoff walk in the bottom of the fifth, but Markart fielded a comebacker to the mound, quickly spun and started a 1-6-3 double play to help end the threat.
“That was a huge play,” Silvesti said.
In the sixth, the Mustangs again mounted a threat, putting a runner on third with two outs, but Hammonton catcher Eric Barts threw out Cook trying to steal second to end the inning.
Markart allowed a leadoff single to start the bottom of the seventh, but retired three-straight batters on fly balls to end the game and send Hammonton into this week’s semifinals.
“We’ve been playing well as a team and we’re very confident,” Adamucci said.
The win at Mainland came after Hammonton opened the playoffs with a 13-5 win at Toms River South.
The Blue Devils had 17 hits in the win, breaking open a tight game with four runs in the sixth and three more in the top of the seventh.
Adamucci went 3-for-5 with two doubles and four RBIs, while McAleer added three hits and scored four times in the win. Landon Haines and Schoell each drove in two for the Devils.
Hammonton played at Delsea earlier this week in the South Jersey Group 3 semifinals. That game ended too late for this edition. The winner will meet the winner of Ocean City and Cherry Hill West on Friday for the sectional championship.