Offense ruled during yesterday's baseball quarterfinals of the Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic at Washington Township.
So did the second basemen - Cherokee's Nick Allen and Camden Catholic's Keith Reynolds.
Allen had three hits and seven RBIs to lead Cherokee, No. 1 in The Inquirer's South Jersey rankings, to an 18-9 win over No. 2 Bishop Eustace, while Reynolds stroked three extra-base hits and knocked in five runs as No. 6 Camden Catholic ousted No. 4 Gloucester Catholic, 12-9, in the wild opener. Both players slammed homers.
Reynolds had a run-scoring double and a three-run double during a nine-run fifth inning that included five extra-base hits and gave Camden Catholic an 11-3 lead.
Camden Catholic advanced into today's 1 p.m. semifinals against Cherokee at Washington Township. The winner will move into tonight's 6 p.m. championship game at Campbell's Field in Camden.
In today's other semifinal, defending champion Seneca (13-6), ranked No. 8, will face No. 10 West Deptford (17-6) at Deptford at 1 p.m.
Cherokee (21-3) and Eustace (16-5) took turns capitalizing on each others' fielding miscues in the early innings. Cherokee scored eight runs (two earned) against starter Matt Grabowski, who wasn't helped by three errors.
Eustace, which allowed 35 runs in two losses to Cherokee this year, got to within 8-7 with an error-aided four-run third off starter Dan Smith.
It would not get any closer.
Ben Flanary, Cherokee's 6-foot-6, Temple-bound first baseman, ripped a three-run homer off Justin Arndt in the bottom of the third, giving the Chiefs an 11-7 lead.
After Eustace trimmed the deficit to 12-8, Cherokee took away the suspense with a six-run sixth, an inning that featured a two-run double by Mike Giuliano (four RBIs) after an intentional walk to Flanary, along with Allen's three-run homer, and a run-scoring single by leadoff hitter Gary Wilson (3 for 4), who reached base five times and scored five runs.
Cherokee, which had assistants Steve Dolores and Marc Petragani coach the team while head coach Bill Haessler attended his son's wedding in Maryland, collected 15 hits off a total of four pitchers.
"Their approach at the plate - they look to drive it the other way - is very solid," said Eustace coach Sam Tropiano, whose Crusaders had three hits each from Shane Fox and Chris Brannigan. "They're a very difficult lineup to deal with."
Ditto Camden Catholic's. The Irish (16-7) got homers from Reynolds, Dan Angelo and Matt Moceri in their conquest of Gloucester Catholic (15-5), which committed six errors. Eight of Camden Catholic's 10 hits went for extra bases.
"Camden Catholic's lineup is better than Cherokee's," Tropiano said. "To me, it's the best in South Jersey. They've got so much power. They eat up No. 3 and 4 [pitchers]."
Cherokee is expected to use its No. 4, Flanary, in today's semifinal against the Irish, who will be trying to avenge an 8-2 regular-season loss.
"We have an advantage because we know we have the capability to beat them," said Allen, Cherokee's second baseman.
Reynolds, the Camden Catholic second baseman, is hitting over .600 and has swatted eight homers this year. A four-year starter who used to play third base and shortstop, the 6-foot, 170-pound senior isn't surprised by his team's explosiveness. The Irish have reached double figures in 14 of 23 games.
"We've been playing together since we were little and we know what everybody can do," Reynolds said. "One through nine, we all hit."
It all starts with Reynolds, who jump-starts the Irish from his leadoff spot. He has 48 hits this season.
"He gives us power at the top of the lineup, and he has crazy speed, too," said Irish coach Bob Moffett, whose school hasn't won the Diamond since it captured the inaugural title in 1974. "That's a nice combination."
With Reynolds leading the way, Camden Catholic built a 12-3 lead. But Gloucester Catholic, ignited by Mike Eliasen's homer, scored six seventh-inning runs to get within 12-9. The game ended when Eliasen, in his second at-bat of the inning, popped out with two runners aboard.
In the other quarterfinals, Dan Grovatt tied his own school record with 12 strikeouts en route to a two-hit shutout as Seneca checked into the semifinal round with a 10-0 win over Holy Cross at Deptford.
Alex Dalsey fired a three-hit shutout and helped his own cause with three hits and a RBI as West Deptford eliminated Eastern, 2-0, at Deptford.
Grovatt worked six innings for Seneca and matched his season-high for strikeouts for the fourth time this spring. Bruce Haines collected two hits and two RBIs and Dan Williams and Troy Foster combined for five hits and two RBIs for the Golden Eagles.
Jake Rifkin chipped in two hits and a RBI for West Deptford.
Gloucester Catholic201 000 6 - 9136
Camden Catholic 200 091 x - 12101
WP: Chris Dondarski. LP: Mike Eliasen. 2B: CC–Lou Sweeney, Keith Reynolds 2, Jim Tarabocchia. GC–Matt Umba. 3B: GC–Dan Angelo. HR: CC–Reynolds, Matt Moceri, Angelo. GC–D.J. Robinson, Mike Eliasen, Sylvio DiCristo.
Bishop Eustace034 002 0 - 9103
Cherokee443 106 x - 18153
WP: Alec Bernstein. LP: Matt Grabowski. 2B: C–Mike Giuliano. BE–Chris Brannigan, Greg Brodzinski, Shane Fox. HR: C–Ben Flanary, Nick Allen.
West Deptford200 000 0 - 260
Eastern000 000 0 - 030
WP: Alex Dalsey. LP: Baer. 2B: WD–Dalsey.
Seneca004 042 - 10120
Holy Cross000 000 - 022
WP: Dan Grovatt. LP: Jared Turner. 2B: S–Bruce Haines. 3B: S–Grovatt.