If you're looking for a couple of ingredients to make up a successful baseball team, it's about as easy as knowing you need flour and eggs to make a cake.
Haddon Township High coach Dave Dale has the top-seeded team in South Jersey Group 2 this season. He will go to the table against anyone, knowing he is bringing the goodies - pitching and defense.
If you get the food references here, it's because Dale's team, which thumped visiting Lindenwold, 17-1, yesterday in a Colonial Conference game, is hungry to get the school's first sectional crown since 1979. The Hawks will host seventh-seeded Woodstown tomorrow in a quarterfinal game.
"We're excited about our chances," Dale said after the win as the skies opened and dumped a heavy rain onto the field. "But I don't know if you can look at the seedings this time of year. You have to throw them out the window. You have to perform on the field. We have good depth at pitching and we play pretty good defense. So we're excited. We're still in the hunt for the conference. We're still in the hunt for the group. We'll just play as hard as we can and let the chips fall where they may."
Yesterday's win improved the Hawks to 13-4 overall, 13-3 in the Colonial. Haddon Township and West Deptford have just three losses in league play.
The Hawks made quick work of Lindenwold. After giving up a run in the top of the first, Haddon Township scored four in the first and nine more in the second. For the day, the Hawks pounded 18 hits and had at least one RBI from eight players.
But make no mistake about it, as gratifying as taking the conference title would be, the South Jersey crown is the ultimate goal of the team, not to mention parents and alumni.
"We've always been successful since I've been here," said catcher Steve Williams, who belted a monstrous home run to leftfield and knocked in two. "We've always been a good hitting club, too. This year, though, we're a little more stable with the good pitching and our defense. We really think we have a good shot at winning Group 2. We want it."
Whether they were good enough to get it was certainly a question at the beginning of the season when the Hawks started 3-2.
"To start the year, we weren't doing much right," said second baseman Joe Clarke, who stroked a pair of doubles and scored three runs from his leadoff spot. "But I had confidence we were going to pick it up eventually because some of our good hitters weren't hitting all that well. My job is to get on base and score runs. I've always had confidence in my teammates that they would get me home. Early on, I knew we'd be able to pick it up, eventually."
They have and it's a big reason why Township has won nine of its last 11.
And, of course, it helps to have the two main ingredients. Righty Rob Harrington, who is 4-0, and lefty Tyler Smith give the Hawks a splendid one-two punch on the mound. Yesterday, lefty Frank Trautz scattered five hits, going all five innings. The fielding, as has been the norm, was flawless.
After a slow beginning, Dale's team seems to be peaking at just the right time. Which just might be enough to end that 29-year sectional drought.
"Early in the season, we didn't play good defense and didn't throw a lot of strikes," Dale said. "But through hard work and determination, we've improved. And if we're going to win a championship, pitching and defense are two good things to have."
Just like flour and eggs. *