With an ERA under 1.00, Cherokee High junior Gary Wilson has been one of the area's premier pitchers this season.
Yesterday, the domination continued.
The 6-foot-1, 190-pound righthander threw a three-hitter as Cherokee blanked host Eastern, 4-0, and took a big step toward winning at least a share of the Olympic Conference American Division title.
"He's not overpowering - his whole thing is getting ground balls, and he had 11 of them today," Cherokee coach Bill Haessler said. "He had a nice cutter and nice fastball and he spotted the ball well."
"It was a normal game for him," said senior catcher Chris Leitz, who delivered a two-run single and threw out a runner trying to steal second in the fifth inning. "Lots of ground balls and hitting his spots."
Throwing in the low 80s, Wilson struck out five, walked two and hit two batters. He was ahead in the count almost the entire game as he improved to 6-0.
"He's one of the top pitchers in South Jersey," Eastern coach Rob Christ said. "When we starting kicking the ball around early, I knew it was going to be tough."
With the win, Cherokee, ranked No. 1 in South Jersey by The Inquirer, improved to 15-3 overall and 5-2 in the division. Eastern (13-6, 3-3), ranked No. 7, suffered its third consecutive loss and fell out of the division race.
Cherokee used an error, a walk, Ray Grab's sacrifice and Leitz's two-run single to open the scoring in the second off lefthander Matt Baer.
"We played small-ball early and put some pressure on them," Haessler said.
"Those runs gave me a lot more confidence, because I knew they had my back," Wilson said.
In the third, the Chiefs played more small-ball and produced two more runs. A walk and Mike Giuliano's single put runners on first and second. Chris Carlontonio then dropped a perfect bunt down the third-base line that Baer fielded and threw past first, allowing two runs to score. Carlontonio was credited with a single.
Wilson did the rest. After Eastern squandered a first-and-second, one-out threat in the first, Wilson allowed just one runner to reach second the rest of the game.
It was the first time Wilson had pitched a high school game on an artificial-turf infield; this is the first year for the turf at Joe Hartmann Field.
"I thought it would skip more," said Wilson, who has an 11-2 career record, "but the ball seemed to die on it."
Cherokee can win at least a share of the Olympic American if it defeats Washington Township on Wednesday in its final division game. Cherry Hill East (4-2) is also in the title hunt and has division games with Lenape and Washington Township remaining.
Notes. Wilson reached base in all four of his at-bats - three walks and a double. . . . Eastern's Greg Katz threw three scoreless relief innings. . . . Leitz said he plans to play at Camden County College next year. . . . In its previous two games, Eastern's ERA ballooned from 1.60 to 3.21 as it allowed a combined 28 runs to Shawnee and Cherry Hill East. "Shawnee hit us around on Saturday [a 19-9 loss] and it seems we haven't gotten back in the groove since then, but we're resilient and we'll bounce back," Christ said. . . . Today, Cherokee has a nonleague showdown with visiting Bishop Eustace, ranked No. 4.
Cherokee 022 000 0 - 4 7 0
Eastern000 000 0 - 0 3 2
WP: Gary Wilson. LP: Matt Baer. 2B: C–Wilson.