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Marc Narducci: Audubon battles back, wins sectional Group 2 semifinal

Over the years, Audubon's baseball program has won many big games by scratching and clawing.

Over the years, Audubon's baseball program has won many big games by scratching and clawing.

Few teams do that as proficiently, and it's a byproduct of the coaching of Rich Horan, who knows strategy but also has a knack for fielding teams that never go down without a fight.

Horan has guided Audubon to five state titles and 359 wins. No. 359 came Tuesday in a 4-2, eight-inning victory over No. 2 seed Haddon Township in a South Jersey Group 2 semifinal.

Third-seeded Audubon (18-5) will face a talented Buena team in Friday's South Jersey Group 2 final.

The visiting Green Wave entered the seventh inning trailing by 2-0, and had managed five singles against Haddon Township ace Ryan Easterday, one of the best pitchers in South Jersey.

Tom Dyer led off the seventh with a single, and pinch runner Mike Tegan advanced to second on a wild pitch. After a strikeout, Tyler Urban cut the lead in half with an RBI single.

Another strikeout left Audubon down to its last out, but the No. 9 hitter in the order, Chris Borgesi, prolonged matters with a single on an 0-2 fastball, putting runners on first and second.

That was followed by a tying RBI single by senior shortstop John Flacco.

"When growing up, you always dream of being in situations like this," said Flacco, who is ranked No. 1 in his class and will attend Stanford, where he says he'll walk on in football. "I wanted to be there with the game on the line."

Actually, the season was on the line.

But Audubon players revel in this type of pressure-packed situation.

The fighting continued in the eighth inning when Urban drilled a two-out, two-run single to break the tie.

Urban had struck out his first two times up, but kept scrapping and ended up with two hits and three RBIs.

"I had looked so bad my first two at-bats, but all we were looking for was one moment to keep things going," Urban said.

Instead, he provided two of them. His winning hit came on a 1-1 curveball.

"I sat back and was anticipating it," he said.

What made Audubon's win even more impressive was that less than 24 hours earlier, the Green Wave lost at West Deptford, 6-4. That defeat gave Haddon Township (20-7) the undisputed Colonial Conference Patriot Division title.

For Audubon, there was no hanging of heads over losing one title, because there was another one to chase.

"Audubon deserves credit, and they are a really good team," said Haddon Township coach Doug Richardson, whose team split its two regular-season games with the Green Wave. "They really fight."

It was clear that so many Audubon players were fighting the same battle. Sophomore starter Kevin Kraemer allowed just two runs in six innings, striking out eight and walking two. Wade Gies pitched two scoreless innings in relief to earn the win.

"We were struggling, and I told them to keep hacking and good things will happen," Horan said. "The kids here have always bought into that philosophy."

That is why a game that was so close to defeat became another victory for a team that never tires from fighting the good fight.

Audubon   00000022 - 4122

Haddon Township   00000200 - 262

WP: Wade Gies. LP: Ryan Easterday. 2B: HT-Rich Porreca.