The plan was for Cherokee's No. 3 pitcher, Ben Flanary, to hurl the first three innings against West Deptford yesterday and take it from there at Campbell's Field in Camden.
That plan, laid out by Cherokee coach Bill Haessler, who was going for career win No. 400, did not include a porous defense. But the Chiefs made five errors and West Deptford took advantage. The Eagles captured the championship game of the 34th annual Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic with a 6-1 victory.
It marked the first time that the Eagles had won the elite baseball tournament.
West Deptford (19-6) entered the game ranked 10th in The Inquirer's South Jersey rankings. Cherokee (22-4) was No. 1. The upset victory for the Eagles in the 16-team, single-elimination invitational flip-flopped the rankings.
The NJSIAA baseball tournament was in the back of both coaches' minds. Haessler's team, seeded second in South Jersey Group 4, is set to host Williamstown, the No. 11 seed, today.
West Deptford coach D.M. Phillips has the luxury of waiting a few more days before his team opens the playoffs on Friday.
Flanary had pitched only five innings in a 14-4 win over Camden Catholic earlier yesterday, so Haessler decided to let him take the mound again at 6 p.m. Flanary kept up his part of the agreement, giving up a pair of runs on two hits, which, for a potent offense like Cherokee's, usually is not a problem.
But the errors were devastating to the Chiefs.
"The first game of the year, we made six errors," Haessler said. "So we have had problems here and there.
"Hitting covers a lot of mistakes, but we couldn't get the bats around on [David] Giuliani today. He did a nice job holding us down."
Giuliani gave up six hits and a run, which scored in the top of the third inning when Alex Pracher stroked a one-out single that knocked in Gary Wilson, closing West Deptford's lead to 2-1.
"My curveball was my out pitch," said Giuliani, normally a centerfielder, who struck out seven. "We were out of pitchers, so I pitched."
The Eagles, designated the home team after winning a coin flip, added a run in the fourth, another in the fifth and two in the sixth. They upset Seneca, 15-8, in a semifinal earlier yesterday, and Jake Rifkin picked up the pitching win.
West Deptford can savor the Diamond Classic championship until Friday, when the Eagles, seeded No. 2 in Group 3, host seventh-seeded Middle Township. Phillips said his No. 1 pitcher, Alex Dalsey, will get the nod.
But yesterday, Giuliani was the talk of the team.
"This was a huge win for us, and pitching was key," said junior centerfielder and leadoff batter Steve Jakubowski, who scored West Deptford's first two runs, walked and slammed a triple. "Giulli is an outfielder, but today he threw strikes."
Giuliani, a senior who is bound for Stanford, said that the Eagles' defense, which was errorless, appeared to be more focused with him on the mound. The position players tend to relax when their better pitchers are on the hill, he added.
Dalsey, Rifkin and Mike Swietanski are West Deptford's triple threat on the mound. Cherokee will go with Pracher, Wilson and Dan Smith in the playoffs.
Cherokee 001 000 - 1 6 5
West Deptford 101 112 - 6 5 0
WP: Giuliani. LP: Flanary. 3B: WD - Jakubowski.
West Deptford 610 204 2 - 15 12 3
Seneca 020 105 0 - 8 14 1
WP: Rifkin. LP: Sam Pepper 2B:WD-Dalsey. 3B: Giuliani S- 2B Dan Williams, Pepper, Matt Giberson.
Camden Catholic 011 20 - 4 6 4
Cherokee 121 82 - 14 9 2
WP: Flanary. LP: Mike Moceri. 2B: CC-Moceri. C-Pracher, Nick Allen. HR: Flanary.