By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
PHILADELPHIA – If the Tri-Cape players are smart, they’ll bring a huge bag of Twizzlers to Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia on Monday morning to the semifinals of the Carpenter Cup.
There must be some magic in the licorice candy that players and coaches were chewing on throughout Friday afternoon’s game against SOL American/Continental (Pa.). How else to explain the thorough 13-6 beat-down Tri-Cape put on its opponent during a
quarterfinal matchup at FDR Park’s Richie Asburn Field? Of course, the team’s domination could also be attributed to the lights-out pitching, big bats and speed the team possesses that make Tri-Cape a viable candidate to win its first Carpenter Cup title next week.
Tri-Cape pounded out 19 hits and its pitching staff put up zeroes in six of the nine innings against SOL American/Continental. St. Augustine’s Barry Buchowski highlighted an 8-run third inning with a bases-loaded double as Tri-Cape built an insurmountable 11-0 lead. Prep teammate Mike Elfreth added an RBI single and Buena Regional’s Robert Bunton added a two-run single. Atlantic City’s Jon Bruccoleri is 4-for-4 with an RBI in Tri-Cape’s two wins so far.
The 16-team, single-elimination tournament will be down to the final four teams by Sunday, as Tri-Cape will take on Lehigh Valley (Pa.) at 9:30 a.m. on Monday at the Phillies’ home stadium. The other semifinal will feature the winners of Saturday’s games featuring Inter-AC/Indy vs. Jersey Shore and Mercer County vs. Delaware Valley. The championship game is at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday at Citizens Bank Park.
“We have a pretty good team. We know we have some good arms and the bats came alive again today,” said Bruccoleri, a center fielder who also was Atlantic City’s top pitcher this past season. “The last two games we’ve been pitching and hitting pretty well. (Our pitchers) throw great. I think they are way better than me. They all throw hard and they are tough to face. (Starting pitcher Mike Schwaryn) is great. He throws pretty hard and locates well.”
Schwaryn, of Gloucester Catholic, was virtually untouchable in his two innings of work, touching the low 90s on the radar gun and
striking out five of the six hitters he faced. Vineland’s Don Money followed him by allowing just two hits and one unearned run in two innings of work before rushing off to graduation ceremonies.
“You don’t go out thinking you’re going to beat a team that badly, but our whole team hit real well. We had a couple errors, but the bats definitely made up for that,” said Ocean City senior Beau Hall, who came on in relief in the seventh and eighth innings. “We have a great a great pitching staff, I think. One of the best pitching staffs so far (in the tournament). I think it will carry us through to what we are working for on Tuesday, and that’s to win the whole thing.”
“We came out gunning. We knew the goal was to play at Citizens Bank Park and nothing was going to stop us,” said St. Augustine Prep shortstop Christian Adorno. “Our pitching is pretty dominant, and our hitters, we got some big boys. My job is to get on base and let them do their thing.”
Egg Harbor Township catcher Troy Dixon and Bunton also had big days at the plate.
Tri-Cape, which features 12 of the best players from the Cape-Atlantic League and 13 from the Tri-County Conference, got to the quarterfinals by edging out Berks County (Pa.) 9-8 in the opening round on Tuesday. Tri-Cape should have all arms available on Monday, as most of the pitchers who threw on Friday afternoon kept their pitch counts low. Also, Delsea Regional junior Bryan Dobzanski, who was touching 92 mph in Tuesday’s win, didn’t pitch in Friday’s victory.
Adorno, a Millville resident, admitted he is a New York Yankees fan, but said it will be quite a thrill to play at Citizens Bank Park.
“Words probably can’t describe the feeling until you’re actually on the field,” Adorno said. “I really can’t wait. It’s going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Bruccoleri echoed those sentiments.
“I think it will be pretty cool. You watch major-leaguers play on that field and to get to play on that yourself is pretty awesome,” Bruccoleri said.
Hall grew up a Phillies fan and said he’s excited for the opportunity to be in the same dugout that players such as Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard occupy on a nightly basis.
“It’s definitely a once-in-a-lifetime chance, obviously. I’m real stoked about it. It’s going to be a good time. I can’t wait. It’s going to be awesome.”