Audubon's Wade Gies says he's a better hitter during games in which he's on the mound.
"When I'm pitching, I'm more into the game," he said yesterday after delivering three hits - including a towering two-run homer - and knocking in four runs while pitching six serviceable innings as fifth-seeded Audubon defeated top-seeded Haddon Township, 9-5, in an NJSIAA South Jersey Group 2 baseball semifinal.
Audubon (15-6) will play host to sixth-seeded Buena (17-8) in Friday's sectional final.
Gies, a slender 6-foot-6, 190-pound sophomore who has won both of Audubon's tournament games, raised his record to 6-2 with six-plus mostly strong innings. He was roughed up for four runs in a fifth inning that featured a two-run homer by centerfielder Ian Lindsay. Other than that, he was pretty much in control.
Gies also made his mark at the plate, helping Audubon take a 3-0 first-inning lead with an RBI infield single. He belted a two-run homer off junior lefthander Tyler Smith - the ball was about four feet fair to left - to give visiting Audubon a 5-0 lead in the third.
After Haddon Township (14-5) trimmed the deficit to 5-4, Gies was in the middle of a two-out, four-run rally that put the Green Wave ahead, 9-4, in the sixth. With two outs and no one on base, the Green Wave bunched five singles and a walk to produce four runs. Matt Knetz and Steve Rizzo (three hits, three runs scored) started the rally with singles, and Gies, Tom Dyer and Kyle Urban delivered RBI singles, while an additional run scored on a throwing error - one of five miscues Haddon Township committed.
Gies has prospered since moving from the No. 5 spot in the lineup to the No. 4 spot after Audubon's cleanup hitter became academically ineligible last month.
"I didn't like hitting five," said Gies, now batting .358 with three homers and 30 RBIs. "I'm in a better spot to get some RBIs now. Rizzo [the No. 3 hitter] doesn't get pitched to a lot, so I get a lot of pitches to hit."
Gies was aided yesterday by his defense, which turned double plays in the second, third and fourth innings.
Second baseman Urban and shortstop Rizzo were involved in two of them.
"I was struggling, and they got me out of the jams," Gies said.
Because of his team's strong defense, "I know I just have to throw strikes and don't have to overpower anyone," he added.
Audubon coach Rich Horan praised Urban's resiliency.
"He struggled early in the year, but he's really come on," Horan aid. "He didn't play baseball for a couple of years because he broke his ankle playing football, but I'm proud of the way he's come back."
Audubon 302 004 0 - 9 13 3
Haddon Township 000 040 1 - 5 8 5
WP: Wade Gies. LP: Tyler Smith. 2B: HT-Steve Williams, Zach Schneider; A-Steve Rizzo, John Flacco. 3B: HT-Joe Clarke. HR: A-Wade Gies; HT-Ian Lindsay.