The book on Seneca High junior pitcher Kevin Comer was only 10 pitches long in the mind of Highland's Joey Sigismondi.
Sigismondi, who began yesterday afternoon on the Tartans bench, had only that many pitches to figure out Comer's arsenal. The sophomore saw three at the plate in the seventh inning, four as he worked his way around to third, and three more once he got there, as he figured out what he needed to do to make something happen in a tie game.
It's not much of a stretch to understand he might have studied those pitches better and more intently than any test, quiz or state-mandated exam he's faced in 2 years at Highland.
"I thought the starting pitcher [James Coughlin] was the one everybody was hyping," Sigismondi said. "When [Comer] came in for the sixth, he threw two pitches, and I knew I was wrong.
"In that situation, I just wanted to get on base. I watched every pitch [in the seventh], and, by the time I got to third, I knew if he threw that curve, I was going."
Sigismondi sprinted home with the game-winning run as host Highland, the top seed in Group 3, beat ninth-seeded Seneca, 7-6, in a South Jersey Group 3 quarterfinal that both teams had chances to win.
On Tuesday, Highland will host Central Regional, which beat Moorestown, 2-1, yesterday.
With the game tied, 6-6, after five innings, Seneca went to Comer - who already has drawn interest for the 2011 draft - to close out the Tartans. Coughlin worked five innings, settling into a good groove after a rough start. Seneca rallied from four runs down to take a 6-4 lead, but the Golden Eagles hurt themselves in the fifth more than anything Highland did.
"I have faith in everybody we have," Seneca coach Sean Cassel said. "At times this year, we've made some mistakes because of our youth. This team has come a long way throughout the season, and I'm very proud of them."
In that fifth inning, Seneca committed a pair of physical errors and one costly mental one as Highland tied the game with a pair of unearned runs.
Sigismondi orchestrated Highland's final run from the moment he walked to the plate to lead off the bottom of the seventh.
"He throws a really good fastball, but it appeared a bit flat to me," Sigismondi said. "I just wanted to make contact. I got down 0-2 and that last pitch, look, I made contact."
His spinning grounder found a space between third and shortstop, and the Tartans had a baserunner.
"He's the type of kid that just gets things done," Highland coach D.J. Gore said. "It's been that way all year. Hey, this whole team has found ways to win all year long, and that's why we know we are in every game no matter the score."
Sigismondi moved to second on a wild pitch, and a 1-2 single to left by Ryan Pavlik set the stage for the final run.
Pierce Phillips, possibly the hottest hitter in South Jersey with 15 hits in his last 22 plate appearances, chopped a ball down the first-base line, but Sigismondi held.
"I didn't have a great view of it. I thought it was more to the mound, and, after a stutter step, I stayed at third," Sigismondi said.
In stepped Tyler Hinchcliffe, who knew all about Comer. The two are on the same team in the summer, so nothing came as a surprise to the Highland senior.
Down, 0-2, in the count, Hinchcliffe knew what was coming. At third, Sigismondi had an idea and looked for the curve.
Comer uncorked a nasty curveball that struck out Hinchcliffe, but the ball hit the dirt and took off for the backstop, which was all the time Sigismondi needed.
"We have room back there," Sigismondi said. "The second it hit the dirt, I was off." *