• Dan Russoman

Hot Shots drop two games to Margate

Teams meet this week to decide ACBL championship


Hammonton starter Pete Berenato delivers a pitch early in the Hot Shots game against Margate on August 5. The Hurricanes went on to defeat the Hot Shots 8-2 in the regular season finale of the ACBL season. (THG/Dan Russoman.To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

HAMMONTON—The Margate Hurricanes wrapped up the regular season title in the Atlantic County Baseball League (ACBL) last week, sweeping a pair of games against the Hammonton Hot Shots.


The 2021 season has been a unique one for the ACBL, which only featured two teams in its 136th season.


Last year, the league featured eight teams, but six of them defected to the newly-formed South Jersey Shore Baseball League this summer.


The ACBL was unable to find new teams this year, and after debating suspending the league for at least a year, both Hammonton and Margate agreed to move forward alone. The result was a schedule that matched the two teams 18 times, although several games were canceled due to weather or other issues.


“It wasn’t an ideal situation, but we decided to make the most of it. Originally, I had hoped that we could work something out with the other league, but they didn’t want any part of us or Margate; we weren’t invited to join [the other league]. So, this year, rather than suspend the league, we went with two teams. We’ve always had a fun rivalry with Margate, so it was fun to play those guys a few more times than we normally do. Hopefully, next year, we’ll add a few more teams,” Hammonton manager Sam Rodio Jr. said.


Last week, Margate topped Hammonton twice to clinch the better record between the two teams and earn the home field advantage in this week’s best-of-three championship series.


The Hurricanes have featured a deeper, more established lineup than the Hot Shots this season, leading to more victories.


“We’re much younger this year than in the past. A lot of our players are just out of high school or a year or so into college. That’s been a big change for us. Margate typically has some more veteran guys who have been around the league a while. I think it took us some time to adjust to the level of play and once we did, we started to play really well. They won more games than us, but I think the championship [series] should be very competitive,” Rodio said.


Veteran Jared Lenko earned the win in the first game between the two teams last week, going five innings and striking out six while allowing just three hits.


“Jared [Lenko] has been around a long time. He knows how to pitch and get people out,” Rodio said.


Jimmy Pasquale had two hits in the win for Margate.


Later in the week, Margate won the regular season finale at Hammonton Lake Park, topping the Hot Shots 8-2.


The ‘Canes grabbed an early 1-0 lead in the top of the first on Pasquale’s RBI single.


Hammonton tied the game in the bottom of the first when Stanton Tentkowski walked, moved to second on a passed ball and to third on a wild pitch, then scored on Jon Gonzalez’s single.


In the third, Hammonton grabbed the lead when Dan Gavlick reached on an error and scored on GianCarlo Palmieri’s single.


Pasquale belted a solo home run in the top of the fourth off Hammonton starter Pete Berenato to tie the game 2-2. Berenato went four solid innings for the Hot Shots, allowing just two runs on three hits while walking two and striking out five.


“I thought Pete threw well for us tonight. He’s had a very good year,” Rodio said.


Margate broke the game open in the top of the fifth, scoring four runs off Hammonton reliever Michael Oliveras, who was hurt by an error and three walks.


After retiring the first two batters of the inning, Olivares walked three-straight to load the bases for Chris Knott, who reached on an error, allowing the go-ahead run to score. Pasquale followed with a two-run single, and Jason Law’s RBI single gave the Hurricanes a 6-2 lead.


“That’s kind of been our pattern this year. We start well then have one inning where it all kind of falls apart and we give up a few runs. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to string together a big rally for ourselves,” Rodio said.


In the sixth, Margate took advantage of another Hammonton error and three more walks to add a run, and the Hurricanes tacked on another run in the top of the seventh.


“We’re not good enough to make mistakes. Errors hurt us, and walks. Margate is too good to be giving them outs,” Rodio said.


The ACBL championship series began on August 9 in Margate and continued the following night in Hammonton. Those games ended too late for this edition. If necessary, a decisive third game will be played on August 12 at Margate.


“I think we have a chance. We should have our pitching lined up the way we want and if we can score some runs and not make too many mistakes, we can beat them,” Rodio said.