• Dan Russoman

Hot Shots limp into postseason


Sean Cocuzza sends a throw to first base.  Cocuzza and the Hammonton Hot Shots lost four games last week. (THG/Betsey Karl. To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

OCEAN CITY—A week after stringing together their longest winning streak of the season, the Hammonton Hot Shots stumbled, as the local team limped into this week’s South Jersey South Shore Baseball League (SJSSBL) playoffs riding a four-game losing skid.


The four games last week completed a stretch of eight games in 10 days for the Hot Shots who battled fatigue and a short-handed roster in several games.


“The two-week stretch strained our pitching staff and we were missing a few guys last week, too,” Hammonton manager Sam Rodio Jr. said.


The Hot Shots began the SJSSBL playoffs earlier this week as the sixth seed, taking on third-seeded Absecon. The first two games of the best-of-three series ended too late for this edition. If needed, the third game will be played on July 20 in Absecon at 7 p.m.


Other first round matchups include the top seed, South Jersey Surf against either Ocean City or Somers Point; second seed Buena against either Galloway or Egg Harbor Twp.; and fourth seeded Northfield against Ventnor. Winners will play best-of-three semifinal series next week.


Last week’s action for the Hot Shots began with a loss to Galloway at Hammonton Lake Park.


“We probably should have won, but we made some mistakes and let it get away from us. We may have been a little tired from having played four games last week, but that’s really not an excuse for how we played,” Rodio said.


The following night, Hammonton was in Ventnor, where the host Baysox cruised to a 12-2 win.


An error in the first inning allowed the Hot Shots to grab a 1-0 lead, but Ventnor tied the game with a run in the bottom of the first.


A five-run rally in the third broke the game open for the Baysox, as Alejandro Rosado had a two-run double and Joe Farrell followed with an RBI single.


Josh Wagner was roughed up for 12 runs on 12 hits to take the loss. The veteran lefty went four and a third innings, walking three while striking out four in his worst outing of the season.


At the plate, the Hot Shots managed just three hits in the loss, as Stanton Tentnowski and Conner Van Dine each singled while Mason Dorsey added a double.


“We didn’t do much at the plate or on the mound. Mason Dorsey had a really good game, he’s been a lift for us in the leadoff spot the last two weeks. Conner [Van Dine] played shortstop and had a hit, he’s played well for us this year,” Rodio said.


Hammonton’s third game of the week was at Northfield, and the Cardinals walked off an 8-7 win.


“We kind of let that one get away. I thought we played pretty well, but we just couldn’t close it out,” Rodio said.


John Kasper pitched well for Hammonton despite allowing his first walk of the season.


“He [Kasper] has been excellent for us. I think he’s pitched maybe 30 innings and only walked one hitter,” Rodio said.


Dorsey led the offense for the Hot Shots with three hits, and also served as the team’s catcher.


“We didn’t have a catcher, so Mason went back there and did well. Later in the game, we put Gino [Serechia] behind the plate, and he tried but he’s not a catcher,” Rodio said.


The lack of a catcher also hurt the Hot Shots in their regular season finale, a 7-0 loss at Ocean City.


Needing a win to possibly secure the fifth seed in the playoffs, the Hot Shots came up short, as the offense once again struggled to score runs.


Jon Newman, Marco Levari and Serechia each doubled in the game for the Hot Shots, while Frank Torrissi took the loss. Van Dine closed out the game, his first stretch on the mound this season.


“We were a little short-handed with pitching, so he [Van Dine] took the ball for us and was OK,” Rodio said.


Closing the season with eight games in 10 days took its toll on the Hot Shots, according to Rodio.


“It really wasn’t ideal because it stressed our pitching and when we didn’t have a full lineup, we had to move guys around to positions they aren’t used to playing. But we played OK. This being ‘Feast Week’ [Our Lady of Mt. Carmel], I thought we’d play well because we usually do during that week, but this year I was wrong, we were awful,” Rodio said.


While disappointed in the lack of success down the stretch, Rodio still felt good about his team.


“Even though we lost a few games, I think we played well. We did some things wrong, but at the same time, we did a lot right. If we can put it together, I think we can win [in the playoffs],” Rodio said.