• Dan Russoman

St. Joe sweeps Absegami, stays unbeaten


St. Joseph’s Ty Mercado (left) reaches for a throw as Absegami’s Andrew Baldino slides into second base during last week’s game. (THG/Dan Russoman.To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

HAMMONTON—A wild start to the season continued for St. Joseph Academy’s baseball team, which remained undefeated with three victories last week, including a pair of one-run wins against Cape Atlantic League (CAL) rival Absegami.


The Wildcats have come from behind in all of their wins this season, providing plenty of drama for coach Nick Core.


“I guess resiliency is the right word for it,” Core said when asked about his team’s never-give up attitude.


“Our guys play with confidence and nothing really seems to shake them. They know they’re good and they just never give up on themselves,” Core said.


St. Joe opened last week playing on the road at Absegami where they quickly fell behind 4-1 in the first inning. Later, they trailed 6-4 in the top of the seventh inning, but scored twice to pull out the win.


Lucas Middleman provided the big hit for the Wildcats, an RBI single that gave St. Joe the lead for good.


Absegami’s first four batters reached in the first as the Braves plated four runs and knocked out St. Joe starter Jimmy Mantuano. Tyler Bowman came on in relief and pitched well, holding Absegami scoreless for four innings.


“He [Bowman] is a senior and he really came through for us. He kept us in the game,” Core said.


Trailing by two in the seventh, Ty Powell led off with a two-base error, setting things up for Cohl Mercado, who drove in Powell with a one-out single. Colin Ahart followed with a double, and Wildcats loaded the bases when Ty Mercado was walked intentionally.


Middleman then stepped to the plate and lined a single up the middle to drive in two runs.

Ty Mercado came on in relief and earned the save.


A day later, the two teams met again at Hammonton Lake Park and St. Joe again rallied late for a 4-3 win.


Both teams missed opportunities to score early in the game, as Absegami left a pair of runners on in the top of the first and loaded the bases in the second without scoring a run. Middleman was able to pitch out of trouble in both frames, striking out three-straight to end the first and coaxing a two-out ground ball to avoid trouble in the second.


St. Joe left runners on in each of the first two innings, and neither team broke through until the fourth, when Absegami’s Frank Gargione doubled and scored on a sacrifice fly from Matthew Johansen.


St. Joseph answered with two runs in the bottom of the fourth. Cohl Mercado led off with a single and scored on Ahart’s double. Ahart reached third on Ty Mercado’s ground ball and then scored when Middleman dropped down a squeeze bunt.


Absegami regained the lead in the fifth, scoring two runs on a bases-loaded single by Andrew Baldino.


The Wildcats tied the game in the bottom of the fifth, after Nick Melchiore was hit by a pitch, stole second and came around to score on an RBI single from Mantuano. The Wildcats failed to take the lead, however, stranding two runners.


The game stayed tied until the bottom of the seventh, when Scott DiGerolamo led off with a single and moved to second when Ty Powell singled. Mantuano’s bunt advanced both runners and after Cohl Mercado was walked to load the bases, Ahart delivered a sacrifice fly to center to score DiGerolamo with the winning run.


“Colin is starting to really hit the ball well. Having him in the middle of the lineup had helped us a lot. And Scotty [DiGerolamo] came up with a really big hit there to get us going,” Core said.


Ty Mercado earned the win, pitching four innings in relief of Middleman. Both pitched well in the game.


“I’m real happy with our pitching. We don’t really have anyone that I think you’d call dominant, but out guys keep the ball around the plate and they don’t hurt us. Lucas [Middleman] did a good job today. He worked his way out of some jams early. And Ty [Mercado] has really become a huge factor for us in the middle innings. He’s throwing well,” Core said.


St. Joseph ended the week with another come-from-behind win at Pitman, handing the previously undefeated Panthers their first loss of the season.


Pitman led 1-0 after two innings, but St. Joe took the lead with a three-run rally in the top of the third, then held on for a 4-3 victory.


Mantuano went 2-for-3 with a double, and RBI and a run scored, while Middleman added two hits and an RBI.


Powell scored twice and earned his second win of the season, allowing two runs on three hits over five innings, walking three and striking out three.


St. Joseph’s next game is on April 20 against Pleasantville at 4 p.m.