Ninth graders don't usually make much of an impact in regular-season baseball games, let alone the opening round of the 34th annual Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic.
Yet that's what happened yesterday as three freshmen - winning pitcher Scott Carcaise, second baseman Jim Yezzo and third baseman Greg Brodzinski - played key roles for Bishop Eustace in a 6-2 win over Buena at Washington Township.
"Our freshmen carried us," Eustace coach Sam Tropiano said.
With the win, Eustace (14-4), ranked No. 4 in South Jersey by The Inquirer, will play top-ranked Cherokee in Saturday's 1:30 p.m. quarterfinals at Washington Township.
Cherokee advanced with a thrilling 6-4 win over unranked Delsea in the first game yesterday. Cherokee (17-3) scored three runs in the seventh - Mike Giuliano's two-run double proved to be the difference - to erase a 4-3 deficit and outlast the Crusaders (11-5).
In the nightcap, Carcaise, a slender 6-foot, 160-pound lefthander, pitched a complete-game five-hitter to stymie second-ranked Buena (18-4).
With ace righthander Chris Monaco sidelined for virtually the entire season because of shoulder tendinitis - he hopes to return next week - Carcaise has been thrust into varsity action.
And he has responded, compiling a 2-0 record and a 1.44 ERA in 241/3 innings.
"He did a beautiful job keeping them off stride with his change-up and curve today," Tropiano said.
Yezzo, making the first varsity start of his career, went 3 for 4 and knocked in two runs. The only time he was retired was on a liner to third baseman Matt Preziosi.
"He's been hitting on the JV, and we kind of felt he was ready," Tropiano said.
Brodzinski has been in the lineup all season and has put together a remarkable year, hitting a team-high .492 with five home runs and 24 RBIs while batting mostly in the No. 5 hole. He went 2 for 4 with an RBI yesterday.
"We're all just trying to work hard and get up to the same level as the juniors and seniors," Carcaise said. "We're just trying to help the team win."
Carcaise yielded two runs in the second - an inning in which he allowed three singles and two walks - but other than that, he was in control.
"In the second inning, they were sitting on my change-up," Carcaise said, "and Coach Trop started calling more curves and they were a little out in front, so it worked out."
On Saturday, Eustace will face a Cherokee team that crushed the Crusaders, 17-2, in a regular-season game Thursday.
"We absolutely want another shot at them," said Eustace senior leftfielder Mike Plakis, who reached base three times (two walks, single) out of the leadoff spot yesterday. "We just got beat up and didn't come to play last time."
Plakis, like his coach, was impressed with the performances of Eustace's three freshmen.
"They play like seniors," he said. "They're definitely going to be great when they're seniors."
In the opening game, Delsea used Matt Hird's two-run double in the bottom of the sixth to take a 4-3 lead against Cherokee righthander Alex Pracher.
But Cherokee tied it in the seventh. Gary Wilson doubled and scored after Drew Hill reached base on an infield single and went to second on a wild throw past first. Later in the inning, after an intentional walk to Ben Flanary, Giuliano delivered a two-run double to give the Chiefs a 6-4 lead.
Pracher, who had a no-hitter until the fifth, allowed two runs in both the fifth and sixth innings.
"My team bailed me out," Pracher said.
Cherokee030 000 3 - 6 7 2
Delsea000 022 0 - 4 2 2
WP: Alex Pracher. LP: Alec Mog.
2B: C–Mike Giuliano 2, Gary Wilson. D–Mike Paollili, Matt Hird.
Bishop Eustace310 000 2 - 6 12 0
Buena 020 000 0 - 2 5 2
WP: Scott Carcaise. LP: Brandon Krementz.
2B: BE–Jeff Browne. B–Jarred Gruccio.