VINELAND—Hammonton High School baseball coach Gregg Silvesti calls senior lefty David Humphries “our ace.”
Humphries backed up his coach’s feelings last week, turning in a gutty performance to help Hammonton edge Vineland 1-0 in a key Cape Atlantic League American Division matchup.
Staked to an early 1-0 lead, Humphries came through for the Blue Devils, allowing just six hits in 6.2 innings of work, only failing to finish the game because of pitch count rules.
“That’s what an ace does. He threw 109 pitches. He’s had a little sore back but he battled through it and I give him all the credit in the world,” Silvesti said.
The game’s lone run came in the top of the first inning. Drew Haines, Jared Beebe and Lucas DeStefano hit consecutive one-out singles before Brett Longo drew a bases-loaded walk to score Haines. The Blue Devils were unable to tack on any more runs, but one was enough for Humphries, who quieted Vineland’s bats for most of the game.
“I was nervous, because Vineland has such a good team. I wanted a few more runs, but he [Humphries] came through for us,” Silvesti said.
Dealing with some arm and back soreness, Humphries was hoping to go three or four innings in the game. But once he found a rhythm, his focus was on going as far as he could.
“Before the game, I thought I’d go three or four innings and just try to keep us in the game. My arm and back have been a little sore, but as the game went on, I knew I just had to keep going,” Humphries said.
Mixing his fastball and curve, Humphries pounded the strike zone and let his defense do much of the work.
After allowing a leadoff hit to Gabe Baldosaro in the bottom of the first, Humphries coaxed a ground ball and a line drive that turned into a double play that ended the inning.
Vineland threatened again in the second, putting two runners on base, but once again, Humphries pitched out of trouble.
In the third, Vineland’s Enzo Descalzi hit a two-out double, but Hammonton center fielder Gavin West made a diving catch in the left centerfield gap on Josh Finger’s fly ball to end the threat.
“I don’t think they [Vineland] thought I’d go into the fifth, sixth inning. They had some good hits, but we made the plays,” Humphries said.
Vineland made one last comeback effort in the bottom of the seventh. With two on and two outs, Silvesti lifted Humphries, who was one pitch short of the 110-pitch limit.
“I could have left him in, but I didn’t know how much he had left,” Silvesti said.
The Blue Devils brought in Joe Perna to close it out, and he coaxed a slow ground back to the mound to seal the win.
“This was huge, especially because it’s a conference game. We should be higher [in the standings] than where we are right not. We’re a better team than our record,” Humphries said.
“We needed this one. We’ve lost some close games, games we maybe should have won,” he said.
One of those games was played earlier in the week, when Hammonton lost at Ocean City 6-5.
Hammonton trailed 6-2 late in the game and the Devils’ seventh inning rally fell a run short.
“We’ve started slow in some games and it’s hurt us,” Silvesti said.
Longo homered and drove in four runs in the loss, while Beebe went 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles.
Earlier this week, Hammonton played at Atlantic City, but that game ended too late for this edition. On May 12, the Blue Devils visit Egg Harbor Twp. at 4 p.m.