THREE MONTHS and just like that, the South Jersey high school baseball season is done. In that short time there were plenty of games and compelling stories crammed into 10 weeks of action. Now that it's all over and summer is on the horizon, here's a quick recap of what happened since March turned into April.
Team of the year: Lenape
Consistency and strength of schedule puts the Indians at the top over closest challenger Gloucester Catholic. While a point could be made that Washington Township went 2-2 against Lenape and won the South Jersey Group 4 title, 7-4, at Lenape, the Minutemen had 12 losses, and there is something to be said for Lenape's consistency through the entire season.
Lenape (23-5) won the Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic and at one point took 15 straight decisions. Baseball is about pitching and on any day that means just about any team can beat another, but Phil Fiore's team avoided any long-term slumps.
Gloucester Catholic won its state-record 14th state title and that counts for something. Still, it seemed that every time Catholic was primed to take the top spot in South Jersey it found a way to lose.
The Rams had one senior in the everyday lineup so they might not have finished this year as the No.1 team but certainly look to be at the top to start next year with a 15th title well within their reach.
Player of the year:
EHT's Chris Knott
Coach of the year:
Audubon's Rich Horan
Rich Horan has been around long enough and seen enough to know that panic never helps the situation, and slowly but surely the Wave rounded into a playoff contender. Of course, 16 wins over the last 18 games of the season can make anyone look like a genius, and Audubon, after a thrilling, come-from-behind 4-3 eight-inning win over Haddon Township in the South Jersey Group 2 final, made it to the state final, only to lose a heartbreaking, 2-1 decision to West Essex.
Much like Gloucester Catholic, the Wave has a young roster and will look for more in 2011.
Surprise team of the year: Ocean City
Game of the year:
Lenape vs. Millville,
Diamond Classic final
One thing is for sure, Kunz-Mulholland's headfirst slide into first wasn't the best play, but it certainly worked in that situation - and there is no chance of instant replay coming to South Jersey anytime soon.
"I'll tell you this, I'm totally for that," the Lenape senior said of his slide on a chopper to second. "I don't know why I did that. It's something I never do." *
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The classic pitchers' duel kept everyone's attention until the bottom of the seventh when Lenape eked out a run with two outs to win, 1-0. Granted, the game ended on a controversial call at first in which Lenape's Jamie Kunz-Mulholland appeared out when the only run of the game crossed the plate, but that just adds to the drama. The Red Raiders (21-9) drew little attention as they proceeded with a workmanlike consistency through their regular-season schedule. With more attention going to Millville and Egg Harbor Township, it surprised some that the Red Raiders became the first team in Cape-Atlantic League history to reach the state finals in baseball since the tournament was started in 1971. A young Green Wave squad started the year with several losses and seemed to be out of the Colonial Conference Patriot race. Chris Knott gained attention early this year and never let up for Egg Harbor Township. He set school records with 15 home runs and 56 RBI. His 15 home runs, three doubles and one triple were almost half of his hits (39). He carried a .513 average, with an on-base percentage of .626 that would make even ESPN's Keith Law drool.
There are plenty of good candidates for this, but in the end Lenape gets the nod as the top team.