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Comer provides relief in Seneca victory

The decision was between the so-called sure thing and the right thing for Seneca baseball coach Sean Cassel.

The decision was between the so-called sure thing and the right thing for Seneca baseball coach Sean Cassel.

On this occasion, right won out. And so did his team.

No. 8 seed Seneca advanced to Tuesday's South Jersey Group 3 semifinals against No. 4 seed Central Regional with Friday's 4-2 win over top-seeded and host Highland in a tense quarterfinal.

Don't call this an upset. Not with the pitching depth that Seneca employs.

"This was like a South Jersey final, two rounds early," Highland coach D.J. Gore said.

It would have been easy to ride the lead horse through the early portion of the tournament, but Cassel decided not to start righthander Kevin Comer, the Vanderbilt recruit and potential high choice in the coming Major League Baseball draft.

Comer, who fought through some early-season injuries to hit his stride, was coming off Monday's 4-0, opening-round win over Ocean City in which he struck out 10 and went the distance.

According to NJSIAA rules, Comer could have pitched as many as 10 innings Friday. Cassel thought he would eventually need Comer, but decided to start righthhander Ty Lyons, who would be the ace on many a South Jersey staff.

Lyons went 42/3 innings, threw 84 pitches, and departed with the score 2-2 and two outs and the bases loaded.

Comer got the final out on a pop-up and finished with five strikeouts in 21/3 innings to earn the win.

The Golden Eagles (12-7) rallied for two runs in the top of the seventh inning on a sacrifice fly by Mark Steen and an RBI single by Cameron Bahr.

So Cassel rolled the dice and won, but even if he hadn't, the veteran coach was content with doing what was best for Comer, who entered the game having thrown just 20 innings this season because of the various injuries and rainouts.

"I wouldn't do something with Kevin that the Phillies wouldn't do with Roy Halladay," said Cassel, alluding to the fact that if Halladay started on a Monday, his next start wouldn't come until a Saturday.

"He threw over 100 pitches on Monday, and I didn't want him throwing 200 in a five-day period."

Cassel was hoping to have Comer throw no more than 40 pitches. As it happened, he threw 33.

Comer was appreciative that his coach didn't want to run him into the ground, so to speak.

"It makes me feel great because I know he cares about me as a person," Comer said.

Of course, it helps to have a pitcher the caliber of Lyons, who entered the game with a 3-2 record and 3.97 ERA and is headed to Division I Binghamton.

And while Lyons, ever the competitor, conceded that he wanted to stay in the game, he also acknowledged that it's not too difficult to give up the ball when he has to hand it to Comer.

"It's nice having that cushion," Lyons said.

Lost in this was the fine performance of Highland starter Ryan Pavlik, who allowed two runs (on Robert Antoniewicz's RBI single and Ryan Williams' RBI triple) in 51/3 innings.

In an interesting twist, Seneca was eliminated in last year's tournament by Highland, 7-6, in the second round, with Comer taking the loss.

"It was some redemption," Comer said.

Now Cassel has an interesting situation: whom to start in Tuesday's semifinal.

The Seneca coach said he didn't know yet, but as Friday showed, he certainly has two enviable options.

Seneca   0100102 - 491

Highland   1000100 - 240

WP: Kevin Comer. LP: Joey Sigismondi. 2B: S-Gabe Santone. 3B: S-Ryan Williams.