Tom Hildebrand estimates that his Washington Township baseball team this season has faced about 10 Division I-bound pitchers, most with fastballs sitting around 90 m.p.h.
So there was no awe factor in facing Mike Shawaryn, Gloucester Catholic's hard-throwing righthander and major-league draft prospect.
"We wanted to be aggressive," said Hildebrand, a senior third baseman. "We had a game plan: We wanted to hop on that first-pitch fastball and see what we could do with it."
When Hildebrand stepped into the batter's box to lead off the second inning, that's exactly what he did - he turned on the first pitch he saw, a belt-high fastball, and launched it over the left-field wall.
It was the start of an avalanche for the Minutemen in Saturday's 8-1 win over Gloucester Catholic in the opening round of the Diamond Classic at Maple Shade.
Shawaryn lasted just 32/3 innings, allowing seven runs (two earned) on seven hits, including three home runs. He was pulled after allowing back-to-back homers to Chris Hartz (2 for 4, two RBIs) and Shaine Hughes (3 for 3, RBI) in the fourth inning.
"They did a really good job of hitting the fastball," Shawaryn said. "I didn't locate as well as I usually do, but give them credit. They hit the ball."
While Gloucester Catholic (18-4), No. 1 in The Inquirer's South Jersey rankings, struggled, No. 4 Washington Township (16-5) thrived in every phase of the game.
Mark Scarpa (6-1) threw a four-hitter. He was backed by a defense that turned four double plays, including three in the infield and one on a rocket of a throw by centerfielder Nick Hartz.
After catching a Sean Breen pop-up in the fourth inning, Hartz threw out Fran Kinsey at home on a near-perfect line from the outfield.
"We stress defense and good pitching," said Washington Township coach Bill Alvaro, whose team moves on to Saturday's second round.
"We've had some ups and downs this year, but now we're getting back to what we do best: throwing strikes and playing clean defense."
Of course, an increasingly confident and dangerous offense doesn't hurt, either.
"Shawaryn is a great pitcher," said Hildebrand, who again swung at the first pitch he saw in the third inning, resulting in an RBI single. "So this is a big win for us, and I think we're starting to get to where we want to be as a team."
Washington Twp. 022 300 1 - 8 9 4
Gloucester Catholic 000 100 0 - 1 4 0
WP: Mark Scarpa. LP: Mike Shawaryn. 2B: WT-Shaine Hughes; GC-Mike Garafolo. HR: WT-Shaine Hughes, Chris Hartz, Tom Hildebrand.