Here’s how things are going for the Cherry Hill East baseball team: The Cougars on Monday scored two victories in seven innings.
Technically, that’s not true. But it sure felt that way to a program enjoying one of its best seasons in a long time.
Behind seniors Steve Lombardi, Alec Rodriguez and Sean McKenna, Cherry Hill East beat Lenape, 7-2, in the first round of the South Jersey Group 4 tournament on a warm afternoon at David Martin Diamond.
Lombardi, a right-hander, worked five strong innings, allowing three hits and one earned run. He struck out five.
Rodriguez and McKenna, the team’s middle infielder, combined for four hits, three RBIs and three runs, while also playing solid defense.
“We know as seniors every game can be our last game on this field,” said McKenna, who was 2-for-4 with an RBI double, and also made a running catch down the right-field line.
The game was the playoff opener for both teams and also counted as an Olympic Conference American Division contest.
So Cherry Hill East not only scored its first playoff win since 2014, but also clinched its first division title since 2002.
That’s two milestones in one day.
“These guys are just constantly pushing,” Cherry Hill East coach Jason Speller said.
Cherry Hill East (16-3) won its ninth game in a row. Things also broke right for the Cougars in the bracket as 13th-seeded Howell upset fourth-seeded Kingsway.
That means fifth-seeded Cherry Hill East will host Howell in the quarterfinals on Thursday.
Egg Harbor Twp., the 16th seed, knocked off No. 1 seed Shawnee, further scrambling Cherry Hill East’s side of the bracket.
“We don’t want this to end,” said Lombardi, who set down the first nine Lenape batters in order.
Nick Garagozzo was 2-for-3 with a two-run double for 12th-seeded Lenape (12-9).
Lenape 000 020 0 -- 2 5 2
Cherry Hill East 012 022 x -- 7 11 1
WP: Steve Lombardi. LP: Ryan Lewbart.
2B: L-Nick Garagozzo. CHE-Sean McKenna, Josh Manders.