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Audubon’s Horan savors his team’s wild rally in seventh

Rich Horan has coached more than 500 baseball games at Audubon.

Rich Horan has coached more than 500 baseball games at Audubon.

He has won 382 of them, and he has led the Green Wave to five state titles.

He says he's never experienced anything like Friday's 9-8 victory over Pennsville in the South Jersey Group 1 final.

"It probably was the greatest one I've ever been involved with," Horan said. "It was insane."

Audubon was behind by 8-3 heading into the bottom of the seventh. But after Green Wave pitcher Chris Fehr made a clutch play on a bunt to end of the top of the inning, Horan said his players were ready to rally.

"We actually had to calm them down," Horan said. "I told them, 'Just relax and put the ball in play.' But we did a lot of more than put the ball in play."

Keith Michalski had a two-run single, and Mike Brandon, Brian Flacco (3 for 5) and Boomer Wickersham (4 for 4) had RBI singles as Audubon plated five runs to tie the score at 8 and send the game into extra innings.

In the eighth, Mike Brandon's RBI single scored Bret Phillips with the winning run.

"What was great was that people didn't leave," Horan said of the large crowd at Audubon. "The kids just kept playing. They know as long as you have that last swing, that last breath, you have a chance."

Audubon (20-5) stumbled a bit in early May after ace lefthander Andrew Schorr, a junior who has committed to East Carolina, was lost for the season with a leg injury.

But behind seniors Flacco, Phillips and Michalski as well as junior catcher Wickersham and junior lefthander Kevin Kraemer, the Green Wave surged to the Colonial Patriot title and captured their second South Jersey title in a row.

"I thought at one point that we might get Schorr back," Horan said. "Then when that didn't happen, you wonder what's going to happen. But these kids just kept fighting."

Kraemer (5-2) is expected to get the start in Tuesday's state semifinal at Rider against Central Jersey champion Florence.

Hot Flashes. Florence (18-2) rolled to the Central Jersey title with a 12-2 victory over South River in a game that was ended after five innings by the 10-run rule.

Like Audubon, Florence has its ace ready to go on Tuesday. Senior righthander Jake DeWitt has a 6-1 record.

"We like our chances because we've got Jake on the mound," Florence coach Joe Frappolli said. "He's such a competitor. He wants the ball in the big games."

Eagles soar. Paul VI coach Pat Fisher sat his team down before the season and talked about five goals.

The Eagles are 5 for 5.

No wonder they can't wait to get their cuts in the sectional title game.

"We wanted to win our conference and we did that," Fisher said of the Olympic National Division. "We wanted to make the Diamond Classic. We wanted to get a home game for the state tournament. We wanted to win 20 games and we wanted to make the South Jersey finals.

"Looking at the big picture, I couldn't be more proud of these guys. The rest for us is gravy."

Paul VI (20-8) has been one of South Jersey's best teams over the second half of the season. The Eagles have victories over South Jersey Group 4 champion Millville and South Jersey Group 3 champion Seneca as well as Group 4 powers Lenape and Washington Township.

Paul VI reached the Non-Public South A final by beating No. 1 seed Holy Spirit by 11-6 on Friday. Junior catcher Ned Kerr and senior outfielder John MacAuley had three hits and three RBIs for the Eagles.

Paul VI, the No. 4 team in The Inquirer Top 10, plays No. 2 St. Augustine in the South A final Tuesday at Rowan.

"We've got nothing to lose," Fisher said. "I don't think anybody in South Jersey expected us to do what we've done this season."

Draft status. Along with Seneca pitcher Kevin Comer, who is expected to be an early-round selection, Holy Cross catcher Mark Zagunis is South Jersey's other top prospect heading into this week's major-league baseball draft.

Zagunis, a Virginia Tech recruit, could be selected in the middle rounds. He also could not be drafted, since teams might be reluctant to use a mid-round pick on a player who probably would opt to attend college.

Zagunis, who will lead Holy Cross (21-3) into the Non-Public South B final against top-ranked Gloucester Catholic on Tuesday at Overbrook, is batting .679 with 11 home runs, 43 RBIs and 25 stolen bases.

"It would be awesome to see my name" in the draft list, Zagunis said.

Wild game. Millville won its first sectional title with a 4-3 victory over Lenape Friday in the South Jersey Group 4 title game.

The Thunderbolts scored the winning run in the bottom of the seventh when pinch-hitter Bud Harden was hit with a pitch with the bases loaded and one out.

Lenape took a 3-0 in the first on Bryan Clayton's three-run homer and Millville tied it in the fourth on Colin Meandro's three-run homer.

"After that, every pitch was life and death," Millville coach Roy Hallenbeck said.

Busy Saturday? South Jersey could be all over the state finals in Toms River on Saturday. In addition to being guaranteed of having South Jersey teams in the Group 1, Non-Public A and Non-Public B finals, the area also has a good chance in Groups 4, 3 and 2.

Why? Starting pitching.

Millville has ace righthander Andrew Biggs ready to go in the Group 4 semifinals against Manalapan. Seneca has Comer set for the Group 3 semifinals against Middletown South. And West Deptford has Tony Urban available for the Group 2 semifinals against Governor Livingston.

Fast fact. Since the start of the state tournament in 1971, the most teams South Jersey has sent to the finals was five in 1988: Cherry Hill West (Group 3), Delran (Group 2), Penns Grove (Group 1), Holy Cross (Parochial A) and St. James (Parochial B).