Bob Bickel doesn’t remember the details of his role in Haddonfield’s only championship-game victory in the Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic.
But, he’s clear on the bottom line.
“We won,” Bickel said of the 1984 final. “I probably didn’t do anything outstanding, but we won the ball game.”
Bickel was a junior third baseman and No. 3 pitcher in the rotation that season, when Haddonfield went 21-4 under coach Dick Eastwick and captured the program’s lone Diamond Classic title with a 3-2 victory over Shawnee under the lights at Alden Field in Bridgeton, Cumberland County.
With Bickel as head coach, Haddonfield on Wednesday night will seek its second championship, facing Shawnee again.
“We came into it, and we said, ‘Why not us?’ ” Bickel said of the Bulldogs’ approach to the prestigious event.
This will be Haddonfield’s third final in the tournament’s 46-year history. Each time, it has been a Haddonfield-Shawnee matchup.
The 1984 game was won in walk-off fashion behind pitcher Mark Bealor, who went seven innings, Eastwick said.
“We scratched out a run in the bottom of the seventh,” he recalled.
Shawnee won the 1990 game, 9-3, with strong work on the mound from Derek Edson, who pitched in both games of a doubleheader that day, Renegades coach Brian Anderson said.
Anderson was an assistant under Brian Gibney that season.
This season’s title game is something of a surprising matchup, given the seedings and the schedule demands on the two finalists. It also marks the first time that two public schools will meet in the championship game since 2010, when Lenape beat Millville, 1-0.
Shawnee is the No. 6 seed. The Renegades beat Highland, 3-2, behind senior lefty Jackson Balzan in the tournament opener May 7, then played Olympic Conference American Division foes Lenape on Thursday and Cherry Hill East on Friday. That severely strained Shawnee’s pitching staff, but the Renegades still emerged Saturday with victories over No. 3-seed St. Augustine (4-3 in eight innings) and No. 2-seed Bishop Eustace (3-1).
Senior Jake Carvin went five strong innings, allowing just one run with six strikeouts, in the victory over Bishop Eustace. Senior Dylan Parker earned the win in relief against St. Augustine and registered the save against Bishop Eustace.
Haddonfield, the No. 8 seed. beat Moorestown, 8-4, in the tournament opener, then played Audubon in a Colonial Conference Liberty Division game Thursday and Moorestown again in a regular-season matchup Friday.
Haddonfield ace Dylan Heine, a Rider recruit, was sensational in a 7-0 win over top-seeded Cherry Hill West in Saturday’s quarterfinals. The Bulldogs then got clutch work from junior pitchers Jakob Slimbock and Aidan Barr to secure an 8-5 win over fourth-seeded Eastern in the semifinals.
“It’s a big deal getting there, but it’s even bigger winning it,” said Barr, who earned the win with three innings of relief, striking out the side in the bottom of the seventh. “So, we have to play our next game even better.”
Bickel said playing in the Diamond Classic is a valuable experience for a smaller public school, with the state tournament set to start Monday.
“It’s one of our goals every year,” Bickel said. “As a small school, it helps us. You get to play these kinds of schools and then go into the Group 2 tournament — and there’s great teams in Group 2 — but you’re battle-tested against some of these big schools."
The Diamond Classic has changed since 1984, Bickel said. Back then, it was something of a consolation tournament for teams that made early exits from the state playoffs.
Now, it’s an opportunity for a team to tout itself as South Jersey’s best.
“We talked about making a statement," Bickel said. "As a Group 2 school, people kind of feel sometimes that we don’t belong. We want to make sure everyone knows we can play baseball with them.”
Haddonfield (16-2) vs. Shawnee (16-5)
Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at Eastern High School
Haddonfield’s road to the final: Beat Moorestown, 8-4; Cherry Hill West, 7-0; and Eastern, 8-5.
Shawnee’s road to the final: Beat Highland, 3-2; St. Augustine, 4-3 (8 innings); and Bishop Eustace, 3-1.
Haddonfield coach: Bob Bickel.
Shawnee coach: Brian Anderson.
Haddonfield title: 1984
Shawnee title: 1990
Haddonfield finals appearances: 1984, 1990, 2019