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Gloucester Catholic gets much-needed break

Gloucester Catholic likes to play every day, if not twice a day.

Gloucester Catholic likes to play every day, if not twice a day.

But the Rams, who went 6-0 last week, could use a little break, since two of their top players are on the shelf with injuries.

Gloucester Catholic (13-2), ranked No. 2 in South Jersey by The Inquirer, is likely to be without star second baseman Joe Brooks for the next three to six weeks because of a thumb injury, coach Dennis Barth said Sunday.

Brooks, who has signed with East Carolina and led South Jersey with eight triples as a junior, hurt his left thumb Wednesday sliding into second base in a game against Highland. Barth said Brooks suffered ligament damage on the play and likely will have to undergo surgery Tuesday.

"It would be great if we could get him back for the Diamond," Barth said of the Joe Hartman Diamond Classic, which will begin May 12 and conclude the weekend of May 19-20.

The Rams, who are off this week as their seniors take their class trip, also will be without junior ace Mike Shawaryn for the next couple of weeks. Shawaryn, who is 2-0 this season with a no-hitter and was 7-0 last season with a 1.56 ERA, will be resting his back as a precautionary measure, Barth said.

Indians rolling. Pennsauken is off to a 7-1 start that includes the championship of the Rohrer Tournament at Haddon Township as well as victories over traditional Group 4 powers Cherry Hill East and Lenape.

"We're playing good baseball," Pennsauken coach Pete Nardello said. "We're playing team ball, getting good pitching, and coming through with key hits at the right time."

The Indians have gotten strong work on the mound from seniors Kyle Hohwald and Ryan Levito. The offense has featured heavy hitting by Hohwald, Anthony Sweet (five doubles), Jeison Diaz, Josh Rodgers, and Nick Smyth.

But the team's offensive leader has been senior Alex Polanco, who is batting .650 (13 for 20) with a South Jersey-best six home runs.

"He's learned how to hit the curveball," Nardello said. "He's hitting with such confidence. Quite a few of his home runs have come when he was behind in the count. If he's up there and it's 1-2, he's still confident he's going to find something to hack."

Surging Blue Devils. Hammonton is 7-1 and has jumped into the top 10 at No. 7 after a week that included a 5-2 victory over then-No. 8 St. Augustine as well as the championship of Saturday's Blue Devil Classic.

"Life is good right now," Hammonton coach Gary Sarno said. "The kids are really playing good ball."

Hammonton has been led by senior catcher A.J. Scibilia, who is batting .560 (14 for 25) with nine RBIs. Seniors Bobby Barbieri (.480), Cris Matos, and Greg Murano (.357, 11 RBIs) also have been key contributors.

The pitching staff is led by sophomore lefthander Justin Smith, who is 3-0 and pitched a strong game in the win over St. Augustine.

"He's so polished," Sarno said. "It's quite a thing to build your pitching staff around a sophomore."

Loaded Liberty. Sterling coach Chris Hoffman thinks that the Colonial Liberty race could go to the wire - with as many as three teams in the photo finish.

"It just looks like one of those years," said Hoffman, whose Silver Knights are off to an 8-0 start, including a 5-0 mark in Colonial play. "Anybody can beat anybody in this division."

It's early, but the division's depth is illustrated by the fact that the two teams at the bottom of the standings, Haddon Heights and West Deptford, are traditionally strong programs. Haddonfield (6-5, 5-2) and Overbrook (9-5, 4-3) should be in the race all season, and Collingswood (3-4, 3-4) is an improved team that surprised Haddonfield on opening day.

"We're off to a good start, but it's a long season," Hoffman said. "I wouldn't be surprised if by the end you have three teams right there for the title."

Mr. Efficient. Buena's Justin Geri needed just 57 pitches to get through the first six innings against St. Augustine Prep on Tuesday.

Geri, a senior righthander, pitched 1-2-3 innings in the first, second, fourth, fifth, and sixth. A walk, an infield single, and an error loaded the bases in the seventh, and St. Augustine tied the score at 3 on a two-run, two-out single by Jay Higbee.

Geri settled for a no-decision in a 4-3 loss in eight innings.

"He just knows how to pitch," Buena coach George West said. "He'll throw a 2-0 breaking ball. He'll change his pattern. He'll work backwards."

This and that. Deptford (5-5) has won five of six after an 0-4 start; senior righthander Joe Shapley has two wins on the mound and pitched well in a 3-2 loss to Eastern on Saturday. . . . Moorestown (5-5) has won three of four; Andrew Lisa and Chance Embler have each hit two home runs. . . . Haddonfield (6-5) has won five of six behind senior Rob Perkins, who had four extra-base hits as the Bulldogs went 3-0 in Colonial play last week.