By Nick Gallagher
Hamilton/Northern Burlington came into Wednesday night with one goal in mind win two games and you are the champion. Atlantic Shore’s goal was a little simpler win one game and you are the champion.
Game One Recap
Both teams looked to pick up offensively where they left off after Sunday thrilling 11-10 extra innings victory by Atlantic Shore. H.N.B. jumped out to an early 4-1 lead after two innings thanks to RBI’s from Isaac Acosta, Reese Pillik, and Nate Mains. In the 5th inning the game dramatically shifted. Atlantic Shore’s offense erupted for 5 runs which was mostly due to a Grand Slam from Riley Gunnels. The crack of the bat seemed to deflate H.N.B. as the game shifted momentum with Atlantic Shore in the lead after 5 innings 6-4.
H.N.B came out in the 6th inning and just played the way they have through the duration of this tournament. They got two men on base due to walks and then it was a Chris Nodeland sacrifice fly which brought home a run to cut the deficit to 6-5.
As the old saying goes it isn’t over until the final out. You could see the boys from H.N.B. believed that Wednesday evening. It all came down to the top of the 7th inning for H.N.B. The inning started with Nate Mains getting hit followed by an Austin Bodie walk, next it was Riche Brown-Luden who grounded into a Fielder’s choice which brought the runners to second and third base with 1 out. In steps, Noah Rivera as he laid down a suicide squeeze bunt which brought home a run as H.N.B. tied the game at 6-6.
After a walk by Niko Garnier and Franklin Peters grounds into a Fielder’s choice. Matteo Mannio draws a walk which brings home a run as H.N.B. takes the lead 7-6. The thrills did not stop there either. Isaac Acosta comes in to pitch in the bottom of the 7th inning allows a single to Atlantic Shore’s Manny Aponte. With two outs Pat Lonegon steps to the batter’s box and with a man on base Acosta looks to his left and picks off Aponte for the final out of the game as H.N.B. survives and forces a second game as they get one step close to becoming tournament champions.
Game Two Recap
H.N.B. possessed all the momentum after the thrilling game one victory as both teams got prepared for a winner take all Championship game. A common thread with these two teams through their first two meetings has been taking advantage of opponents mistakes. That didn’t change in the second game of the night. Once again early in the game H.N.B. capitalized on mistakes made by Atlantic Shore as they went ahead 2-0 as the result of wild pitches. Franklin Peters added and RBI single in the 4th inning to put H.N.B. up 3-0.
With H.N.B. cruising through 4 innings it was in the bottom of the 5th where Atlantic Shore got some unexpected momentum. It started from a controversial call where Nick Wagner hit a fly ball to left field. As the runner tried to tag up from third base it appeared, he left too early and H.N.B. threw the ball to third base and they tagged the bag and the runner was called out. Therefore, the run didn’t count, and the inning was over. The Manager for Atlantic Shore argued the call and got ejected in the process.
In what seemed to be the spark Atlantic Shore needed and was looking for all night. Following the ejection in the bottom of the 6th inning Atlantic Shore responded by scoring 8 runs on patient at-bats, smart baserunning, and clutch hitting while sending nine men to the plate. This was capped off from a bases clearing double from Jack Hoag in a wild 6th inning.
H.N.B. fought until the very end but couldn’t recover from the deficit as they fall 8-3. As Atlantic Shore are the Champions of the 2020 Southern New Jersey Babe Ruth League State Tournament.