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St. Augustine's Baxter shuts down Sacred Heart

With one out in the fifth inning, Sacred Heart's Theo Mercurio reached third base.

With one out in the fifth inning, Sacred Heart's Theo Mercurio reached third base.

He was 90 feet from going where no base runner has gone with St. Augustine's Kevin Baxter on the mound in more than three weeks: home.

Mercurio never made it. Baxter struck out the next two batters and pitched a scoreless sixth inning to register his fourth consecutive shutout as St. Augustine beat Sacred Heart, 13-0, Saturday in the first round of the Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic.

Baxter, a senior righthander, allowed four hits with one walk and eight strikeouts. He faced just 24 batters in a baseball game shortened to six innings because of the 10-run mercy rule.

"I'm having fun out there," Baxter said. "I'm just trying to throw strikes, and the guys have been making the plays behind me."

Baxter (6-1) has thrown 30 consecutive scoreless innings. He last allowed a run in the fourth inning of an 11-1 victory over Bishop Eustace on April 21.

"He's a senior," St. Augustine coach Mike Bylone said. "He's been pitching since his freshman year, but he waited his turn behind some other guys. That's how our program is built."

Baxter, who lives in Waterford and plans to play baseball next season at Rowan University, also delivered the game's biggest hit: a three-run double that gave the Hermits a 5-0 lead in the fifth inning.

"I needed that because I've been struggling at the plate," Baxter said.

Mike Elfreth and Kyle Lindsay had two-run singles and Mike Scimeca had a pair of doubles and scored two runs - all in an eight-run sixth inning for St. Augustine (12-6), which has won six of seven.

St. Augustine, which made the Diamond Classic final last season, advanced to face Washington Township in next Saturday's quarterfinals. Washington Township advanced with a 7-3 win over Eastern in the first game of the doubleheader at Deptford.

Baxter faced six batters with runners in scoring position. He struck out four of them.

"The first five innings, he had great command of his curveball," said St. Augustine catcher Barry Buchowski, who was 2 for 3 and reached base three times.

Baxter was the losing pitcher in last year's Diamond Classic final, won by Buena by a 9-8 score in a game that ended with a bang-bang play at the plate.

"I want that one back," Baxter said. "That's my goal, to get back there and win it this time."

St. Augustine   010048 - 13141

Sacred Heart   000000 - 044

WP: Kevin Baxter. LP: Holvin Figueroa. 2B: SA-Mike Scimeca 2, Christian Adorno, Kevin Baxter; SH-Steve Steigerwalt.