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Burlington Twp. qualifies for Diamond

Ryan Bell moves all over the baseball field.

Burlington Township's Aaron Crichlow scores under the tag of Rancocas Valley catcher Garen Turner. (Elizabeth Robertson/Staff Photographer)
Burlington Township's Aaron Crichlow scores under the tag of Rancocas Valley catcher Garen Turner. (Elizabeth Robertson/Staff Photographer)Read more

Ryan Bell moves all over the baseball field.

He pitches. He catches. He plays left field, shortstop, and third base.

But now Bell and the rest of the Burlington Township baseball team is going somewhere new: into the Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic.

"It's huge for us," said Bell, a junior who led Burlington Township to a 7-6 victory over Rancocas Valley in a Burlco Liberty game on Tuesday. "It's a great opportunity for the team."

Bell pitched, played left field, and caught as Burlington Township improved to 10-4 overall and 5-0 in the Liberty Division.

Counting games against teams from the Patriot Division that are moved up to the Liberty for the purposes of selecting the Diamond Classic field, Burlington Township has a 7-1 division record with one game remaining before Saturday's cutoff date.

Second-place Rancocas Valley is 7-6 overall and 6-3 in the division, with no remaining games that will impact the race.

Burlington Township has never played in the Diamond Classic, which began in 1974. The 39th annual tournament will begin on May 12.

"It feels awesome for the school because we've never done it before," Burlington Township coach Jason Stec said. "We've been a .500 team for so long."

Burlington Township is the fourth team to clinch a berth in the Diamond Classic. Millville (Cape American), Sterling (Colonial Liberty), and Gloucester Catholic (Tri-County Royal) also have secured spots in the 16-team field.

The full field will be announced Sunday night.

"We've been trying to get these guys to believe," Stec said. "These guys, they love the game. They play it the right way, and when they don't, they work hard to fix it."

Bell earned the pitching victory. He worked work five-plus innings, allowing five hits and three unearned runs.

Bell was behind the plate for the final out, which was recorded by sophomore Dave Viselli, who had started the game as the catcher.

"They both go back and forth," Stec said of Bell and Viselli. "They are such smart ballplayers. They just understand the game."

Bell singled and scored in a five-run fourth inning as Viselli rapped a two-run double and senior shortstop Bryan Bessinger and junior leftfielder Aaron Crichlow delivered RBI singles.

"We're all playing good ball right now," Bell said. "We're sitting pretty."

Down by 7-1, Rancocas Valley rallied behind Nick Cieri, Frank Cerami, and Garen Turner - all of whom hit triples in the final three innings. The Red Devils had the tying and winning runs on board in the bottom of the seventh but couldn't bring them around.

"We're learning our lessons," Rancocas Valley coach Dave Hower said.

Burlington Township   0105100 - 7103

Rancocas Valley   0100212 - 674

WP: Ryan Bell. LP: Kevin Lovett. 2B: BT-Dave Viselli. 3B: RV-Nick Cieri, Frank Cerami, Garen Turner.