By Phil Anastasia
This baseball season didn't go according to plan for Rancocas Valley's Nick Cieri.
But it ended in a wonderful way.
Cieri, a left-handed swinger who probably was South Jersey's most dangerous hitter, suffered a dislocated left shoulder during an April 27 game against Nothern Burlington.
He ended up sitting out around three weeks, missing nine games as RV missed out on a chance to qualify for the Diamond Classic and capture the Burlco Liberty title.
But Cieri, who played catcher for the first time in his career this season, returned to action last week. He served as designated hitter as RV lost in the first round of the CJ 4 tournament and played its final game in a loss to Cinnaminson in the Burlco League tournament.
In his last game, Cieri has three hits, including the 100th of his career.
"It was a great feeling," Cieri said. "It's an accomplishment that I worked hard for."
RV coach Dave Hower said the moment was special because the Red Devils strung together some hits to get Cieri his last at bat.
"I was telling guys, 'You have to find a way to get on, we've got to give him another chance,'" Hower said. "We got him up there and Nick came through. The guys ran on the field like he had just won the game.
"That's how much they like and respect him."
Cieri, who has signed with Maryland, isn't sure how much the injury will impact his draft status.
Before the injury, one scout said he thought Cieri would project as a selection in the 10th-to-15th round of the MLB draft.
"The injury isn't a long-time thing but some scouts said they didn't get to see me enough," Cieri said.
With a plus throwing arm -- his "pop" time has been registered around 1.8 to 1.9 seconds -- and that left-handed swing, Cieri still could draw interest on draft day.
But as with many high school players who have signed with colleges, Cieri's "signability" will be as much of a factor in whether or not he is drafted as his "ability."
The same goes for potential draft picks such as Gloucester Catholic's Mike Shawaryn, St. Augustine Prep's Chris Oakley, EHT's Troy Dixon, Winslow Township's Jon Gonzales, Shawnee's Jerret DeHart, Bishop Eustace's Zac Gallen and others.
Cieri was excited to finish his career in such a positive way.
"We had a great team with a great bunch of guys," Cieri said. "It was great to be able to get back out there for the last couple of games."