With his Haddonfield High baseball team one strike away from a shutout defeat, shortstop Matt Kirchner delivered the hit that prevented Audubon's Rich Horan from capturing his 300th coaching victory yesterday.
Kirchner's two-run single to right-center with two outs in the seventh inning lifted Haddonfield to a 2-1 Colonial Conference win over the visiting Green Wave.
The 6-foot, 180-pound senior, who will attend Elon on a baseball scholarship, entered the game hitting a lusty .769 with runners in scoring position.
"He was the right man up at the right time," Haddonfield coach Bob Bickel said.
"I was just trying to put it in play and make solid contact," said Kirchner, who is batting .500 overall.
Hard-throwing junior righthander Luke Peyton (3-2) pitched a complete-game four-hitter with 10 strikeouts and two walks to notch the win.
"Our mentality was that we didn't want their coach to get his 300th against us," Peyton said, smiling. "I just want to thank Matt Kirchner, because that was a beautiful hit."
Peyton and Audubon junior righthander Kevin Melvin, who had pitched a no-hitter against Woodbury in his previous outing, both had superb outings. Neither allowed a hit until there were two outs in the fifth.
Haddonfield's first hit was a single to center - it ticked off the pitcher's glove - by sophomore catcher Tom Gargano. That ended Melvin's no-hit streak at 111/3 innings.
Audubon (7-5 overall, 6-4 conference) used Steve Rizzo's double and Bob Chiarulli's run-scoring single to take a 1-0 lead in the sixth. In the bottom of the inning, Haddonfield's Andrew Frangos cracked a leadoff double to deep center but was thrown out as he tried to stretch it into a triple. Shortstop Rizzo took centerfielder Zack Fadio's relay throw and threw a strike to third, barely nipping Frangos.
In the bottom of the seventh, Gargano and Keith Hurley rapped one-out singles to put Haddonfield runners at first and second. Hurley and pinch-runner Alex Watson advanced to second and third on Doug Yurkow's groundout to second.
Up stepped Kirchner, who ripped a 1-2 curve just past diving second baseman Nate Cowan, sending two runners home and giving Haddonfield (10-5, 9-4) the emotional win.
It was emotional because Haddonfield avenged a 23-8 loss to Audubon on April 10, a game in which Peyton was shelled.
That was Haddonfield's first game after popular junior John "J.T." Haggerty, a football player and wrestler at the school, leapt off the Benjamin Franklin Bridge on April 8 and was presumed to be dead. A Delaware River Port Authority spokesman said last night that the body had not been recovered.
Many of Haddonfield's players were close friends with Haggerty. Playing that game, Peyton said, was difficult.
"A lot of us were hoping the game was rescheduled, because no one really wanted to play," he said.
"It was hard for us to even talk about playing baseball that day," Kirchner said, "and we marked this game on our schedule because we wanted to show them that we're not the team we were that day."
After Haggerty's apparent death, Haddonfield lost three straight and was outscored, 47-19.
"It definitely affected us," Bickel said. "A lot of our players were very close with him and . . . they were in a daze for three games."
Since that three-game losing streak, the Bulldogs have regrouped and won eight of their last 10, including their last four games.
As for Audubon, it will try to give Horan his 300th win Sunday when it plays talented Haddon Township in historic Cooperstown, N.Y., site of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
After yesterday's game ended and the teams exchanged handshakes, Bickel hugged Horan. "Get it in Cooperstown," he told him.
Audubon000 001 0 - 143
Haddonfield000 000 2 - 243
WP: Luke Peyton. LP: Kevin Melvin.
2B: A–Steve Rizzo. H–Andrew Frangos.