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Charlton’s slam powers St. Augustine in A final

Ed Charlton leads in a variety of ways for St. Augustine's baseball team, from powering the offense to choreographing the postgame celebration.

Ed Charlton leads in a variety of ways for St. Augustine's baseball team, from powering the offense to choreographing the postgame celebration.

Charlton's grand slam during an eight-run fifth inning was just one of many big plays as St. Augustine defeated Paul VI, 12-2, in Tuesday's South Jersey Non-Public A final at Rowan.

The game went just five innings because of the 10-run rule.

After righthander Matt Rakus got the last out on a grounder back to the mound, the Hermits had the most muted of postgame celebrations.

There was no whooping and screaming, or throwing hats and gloves, or diving on a pile. No, the players acted as if they had been there, despite being eliminated in their first playoff game in each of the two previous years.

And Charlton was the ringleader.

"I got the guys together when we were up 12-0 and said that we should win this, so why celebrate too much," Charlton said. "Our goal has always been June 11."

That would be the date of the state final, when St. Augustine (26-4) will meet Pope John at a time and field in Toms River to be determined.

In spring sports, it's often easy for the seniors to go adrift, but it has been the opposite for the Hermits. Their seniors have played this year as if this would be their final chance, which it obviously is.

This game was a microcosm of a Hermits season in which they received great pitching from Rakus (9-0), plenty of offense, and just as impressive play in the field.

Second baseman Anthony Cocuzza made a highlight-film diving stop of a bullet by Paul VI's Nick Gallo and threw the sophomore out in the third inning. It takes that kind of play to get Gallo out these days. He finished the season batting .515 with 20 doubles and 30 RBIs.

Cocuzza laid it out for his team after a pep talk by his father.

"My dad told me, 'No dive, no glory,' " Cocuzza said.

It's one of those groups that has done anything possible to make this team improve. Charlton, who along with Rakus will attend the New Jersey Institute of Technology, decided that he needed to provide the team more power despite being the leadoff hitter. As a sophomore, he hit two home runs, and as a junior, the total was three.

So he decided to change his stance.

Tuesday, he clubbed his ninth home run.

What's impressive is that the Hermits made it look easy against an extremely talented, 20-9 Paul VI team. This is the same Paul VI squad that won the Olympic Conference National Division, which includes South Jersey Group 3 champion Seneca.

"I give St. Augustine all the credit in the world because they did what they have done all year – put the ball in play, get great pitching, and play great 'D,' " said Paul VI coach Pat Fisher, whose team scored on a two-run single by Paschal Petrongolo in the fifth inning.

As it turns out, this veteran St. Augustine group has learned how to win together, and as the Hermits displayed Tuesday, they even have the postgame celebration bit mastered quite nicely.

St. Augustine   00408 - 12100

Paul VI   00002 - 281

WP: Matt Rakus. LP: Pat Speirs. 2B: P-Nick Gallo; SA-Anthony Cocuzza, Miscal Aponte, Barry Buchowski. HR: SA-Ed Charlton.