Before the game, Nick Favatella remembered what it felt like to be a freshman.
During the game, Favatella showed what it means to be a senior.
"It's gone by fast," Favatella said of his remarkable baseball career, which will last through the holiday weekend, thanks to Washington Township's 7-4 victory over Lenape in the South Jersey Group 4 title game on Friday.
Three years ago, Favatella was a freshman second baseman for a low-seeded Washington Township team that scored upset after upset en route to the first state title in the history of the program.
Now, Favatella is a senior shortstop for a low-seeded Washington Township team that is doing the same thing.
"I told these guys before the season that I saw parallels between the two teams," Favatella said. "I told them, 'We can do this.'"
Washington Township was a No. 14 seed in 2007. The Minutemen qualified for the state tournament by winning on the cut-off date.
This year's team is a No. 13 seed. But the Minutemen have followed a similar path, upsetting four higher-seeded teams on the way to the sectional championship.
"The seed doesn't matter," said Washington Township coach Bill Alvaro, whose team advanced to Tuesday's state semifinals against Central Jersey champion Jackson Memorial.
"We played 13 games against Lenape, Eastern, Cherokee and Cherry Hill East. We're going to lose a few of them."
Washington Township is 18-11. But the Minutemen have won four tournament games on the road. They raised their level of play in the last two outings with impressive victories over Olympic American rivals Cherokee and Lenape.
"They hit the ball," said Lenape coach Phil Fiore, whose third-seeded team, which is No. 1 in The Inquirer Top 10 rankings, finished with a 23-5 record. "They didn't hit like that the first two times we played them."
Steady improvement has been the key to Washington Township's success. The Minutemen played a big-time schedule – besides the gauntlet of Olympic American play, they also participated in the Grand Slam Classic as well as the Diamond Classic – and their younger athletes developed into seasoned veterans.
"We have some kids who didn't have much varsity experience," Alvaro said. "They needed to get their feet wet. Now, they can feel it."
The same thing happened in 2007. That season, Washington Township rode a hot pitcher in Billy Rice and some timely hitting to the state title.
This season, the hot pitcher is senior left-hander Adam Warburton, who went six strong innings on Friday. The timely hitting against Lenape came from the likes of Sean Nolan (single, home run, sacrifice fly), Mark Jankowski (two-run double) and Jonny Morad (home run).
One constant between the two teams has been Favatella, who has signed to attend Rutgers University on a baseball scholarship. He was a clutch hitter for the 2007 Minutemen, delivering two extra-base hits in the state title game.
He's been hitting all season as a senior. He entered Friday's game with a .600 average, with 17 doubles, eight homers and 32 RBIs.
He's taken his game to another level in the tournament. In Monday's 13-0 victory over Cherokee, Favatella was 4-for-4 with two homers, a double and six RBIs.
Favatella walked in the middle of a rally in the first inning on Friday. He delivered an RBI single in the fifth. He also played a flawless game in the field, with three assists.
"To be part of it as a freshman was a great experience," Favatella said. "It helped me lead us through this run. I think we can do it again. Winning that first state title, that was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. To do it again would be incredible."
Washington Twp. 111 040 0 - 7 9 0
Lenape 000 400 0 - 4 8 2
WP: Adam Warbuton. LP: Tory Schroff.
2B: WT-Mark Jankowski; L-John Eigenbrood.
HR: WT-Sean Nolan, Jonny Morad.