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A showdown with Hall of Fame backdrop

They are the No. 1 and No. 4 teams in the area rankings.

They are the No. 1 and No. 4 teams in the area rankings.

They are the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the Olympic American standings.

They are familiar foes who could play as many as four times this season.

But there will be something special about the division clash between Washington Township and Cherokee on Monday morning: The game will be played in Cooperstown, N.Y., in the shadow of baseball's Hall of Fame.

"Both teams are looking forward to the experience of getting to play each other in a different environment," Cherokee coach Marc Petragnani said. "We all know the importance of the game in terms of the Olympic American standings. We can't wait."

Cherokee (9-2 overall, 4-1 in the Olympic American), ranked No. 4 in South Jersey by The Inquirer, is one of South Jersey's hottest teams. The Chiefs have won seven in a row.

No. 1 Washington Township (13-0, 5-0) is looking to finish an undefeated April. The Minutemen would prefer an undefeated June, but a good start is a good start.

"This is a team that's having a lot of fun playing together," Washington Township coach Bill Alvaro Jr. said.

The teams could meet twice more - in the Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic and in the South Jersey Group 4 tournament.

But the division title could turn on Monday's game, which will have a unique and historic setting.

"Steve Dolores, our assistant coach, is a dreamer and always wants to try and travel for games," Petragnani said. "This year, he suggested Cooperstown. We went to our administration, and they approved it. We are pretty close with Bill Alvaro and their staff, so we talked to them about it.

"They were trying to travel for a game this year. We were scheduled to play them at their place on a Monday, with no games for either of us scheduled [on the] weekend, so it worked out perfectly."

Ready to fly? Pat Fisher hopes that his Paul VI team is about to break loose and live up to its considerable potential.

"We've lost three games by one run," Fisher said after a 5-4 setback against No. 1 Washington Township on Tuesday. "We just have to get over that hump and learn to execute in close games.

"We're making some little mistakes that are hurting us. If we eliminate those, we'll be the team we think we can be."

Paul VI (9-4), No. 10 in the rankings, has won three in a row since that loss to Washington Township. Senior shortstop Brian Almand led the way with a double, triple, and home run.

Battling Bulldogs. Haddonfield has won seven of eight and five in a row. The Bulldogs won the Russ Spicer tournament on Saturday with victories over Deptford and St. Joseph.

"Everybody has started to play better," said Haddonfield coach Bob Bickel, whose team visits Sterling in a key Colonial Liberty game Monday. "We were playing pretty badly in the beginning of the season. We weren't hitting, fielding, or pitching. That's a tough combination."

Haddonfield has gotten a lift from sophomore Mike McLaughlin, who has three doubles, a home run, and a pitching win in the last three games. Bickel also has high praise for a trio of senior leaders: catcher Chris Dengler, first baseman Rob Perkins, and rightfielder Matt Bhaya.

"Those three seniors have taken control," Bickel said. "They've been through the wars in football and they are starting to show their leadership on the baseball field."

Amazing game. Mainland beat Millville, 1-0, in a 10-inning instant classic Wednesday.

Mainland senior righthander Max Bell went the distance. He allowed just one hit and struck out nine.

Mainland coach Bill Kern said Bell threw just 107 pitches.

"In five of his innings, he threw less than 10 pitches," Kern said. "He had 78 pitches after six and I was ready to take him out after the seventh, and he had a four-pitch seventh."

Millville's Aaron Cox went six shutout innings and struck out 13. Andrew Biggs pitched four innings and struck out seven. Mainland scored an unearned run in the seventh on a walk, sacrifice bunt, and two-base throwing error.

"It was a shame it had to end that way," Kern said. "We started at 4 o'clock, and when we finished the seventh inning it was quarter-after-five. It was just a great game."

This and that. Pitman (8-5) has won five of six behind junior Matt Ennis, who recorded a pair of pitching victories. . . . St. Augustine Prep (8-6) has won three of four, with junior catcher Barry Buchowski generating two doubles and a home run. . . . Overbrook (9-7) has lost seven games by a combined total of 15 runs.

Buena freshman Denny Brady had four doubles and a pair of pitching victories. . . . GCIT's Jake Danner has hit a double in five consecutive games. . . . Millville's Biggs leads South Jersey with 61 strikeouts. . . . Haddon Township (9-4) has won seven of nine, with Pat Burns picking up three pitching wins and hitting four doubles.