It was 6:30 on a Sunday morning, and Rich Horan was on his way to the baseball field.
Horan was en route to his home field at Audubon before most folks opened their eyes on April 29 to help prepare the site for the consolation and championship games of the Ralph Shaw Classic.
Horan, 56, still loves everything about the sport - the practices and games but also the field preparation and pregame and postgame rituals that are so much a part of baseball.
"I'm a baseball lifer," Horan said.
Horan won his 400th game at Audubon on Thursday. He has a 400-158-2 record in 21 seasons. His teams have won six state titles and are a serious threat to capture another crown this season in Group 1.
"It's a big deal, because it's a testament to the program," Horan said of the 400-win plateau. "It says something about all the kids who have come through here."
Horan said he heard from several former players after the milestone victory.
"That means so much," said Horan, who took over as head coach in 1992.
Horan has built Audubon into one of the best programs in the state. The Green Wave have a rich tradition in the sport and benefit from a strong youth organization in the little town.
Horan's coaching staff is filled with former Audubon players such as Chris Harris, Brian Kulik, Ryan Gilmore, Ryan Knaul and Keith Allen.
"Our kids buy in," Horan said. "Our coaches have been through the program, and they know what we want to do. We have a great tradition, and these guys all want to be part of it."
Thanks, buddy. Bishop Eustace and Haddon Township earned automatic bids to the Diamond Classic this weekend - thanks to a little help from their friends.
Bishop Eustace (10-5) earned the Olympic National bid when Cherry Hill West beat Paul VI by a 12-7 score on Friday.
"It was poetic justice because Cherry Hill West knocked us out last year," Bishop Eustace coach Sam Tropiano said. "We had made the Diamond something like 25 years in a row. You don't appreciate something until it's gone, and we felt that last year.
"We're so excited to be back in there."
Bishop Eustace has a nice mix of youth and experience, Tropiano said. The Crusaders play three freshmen in Chris Jones, Nick Browne, and Justin Hagenman and have gotten a big lift from sophomore Devin Smeltzer, a transfer from Eastern.
Seniors Keith Wallace and Vinny Paola and junior Zac Gallen are productive veterans.
"We're set up to be a pretty good second-half team," Tropiano said.
Haddon Township (11-4) earned the Colonial Patriot bid when Haddonfield knocked off Audubon by a 6-3 score on Saturday.
"It was a goal of ours, but we knew how good Audubon was," Haddon Township coach Doug Richardson said. "Our kids have played pretty good ball. We feel like we deserve to be there."
Haddon Township has been led by pitchers Pat Burns and Kevin Griese, who are a combined 7-0.
"Every time out they've either thrown a shutout or allowed one or two runs," Richardson said.
Many of Haddon Township's players are friendly with Haddonfield's players, so they were counting on their buddies to pull through for them.
Before Saturday's game, Haddon Township senior Tyler Easterday sent a good-luck text to Haddonfield senior Chris Dengler, according to Haddonfield coach Bob Bickel.
"We were happy to help them out," Bickel said.
Bickel said Richardson and his staff owe the Haddonfield staff a bonus for Saturday's victory.
"We're pretty big eaters," Bickel said.
Said Richardson: "It's going to be expensive, but it's worth it."
Dr. No. Highland's Joe Sigismondi pitched a no-hitter Wednesday in a 2-0 victory over Williamstown.
Sigismondi, a senior righthander, threw just 77 pitches. He faced just 22 batters, one over the minimum.
"He was ahead on 19 of the 22 batters," Highland coach D.J. Gore said. "It was an unbelievable performance."
It was Sigismondi's first complete game of the season. He usually plays shortstop and hits third for the Tartans.
Williamstown's only runner reached on an error in the third. Gore said leftfielder Frank Angeloni and second baseman Chris Giambri helped preserve the no-hitter with strong defensive plays.
King of Ks. In what probably was the most dominating pitching performance of the season, Cherry Hill West's Brenden Del Monte struck out 18 in a 2-1 victory over Pennsauken on Monday.
Del Monte struck out 17 in a row, retiring the last two batters on strikes in the first and then striking out the side in the second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth.
"In my 12 years of coaching high school ball it was the best-pitched game that I've seen," Cherry Hill West coach Dan McMaster said.
Olympic realignment. With Pennsauken joining the Burlington County League and Triton joining the Tri-County, the Olympic Conference will realign from three divisions to two next season, according to Paul VI athletic director Tony Mitchell.
The American Division will be composed of Cherokee, Washington Township, Eastern, Lenape, Cherry Hill East, and Shawnee. The National Division will feature Cherry Hill West, Winslow Township, Paul VI, Bishop Eustace, Seneca, Timber Creek, and Camden Catholic.