First-teamers wielded heavy lumber

Posted: June 18, 2011

If this was the end of a live-bat era, the heavy hitters on the all-South Jersey first team sent this segment of history out in style.

Like a line drive off the bat of Mark Zagunis.

Or a gapper off the bat of Jake DeWitt.

These guys hit for power as well as average. Extra-base hits were the coin of the realm in the last year before high school baseball follows college baseball by legislating changes in the composition of metal bats - acronymically, it's replacing BESR bats with BBCOR bats - to restrict the trampoline effect.

So 2012 might be Year One in the Second Age of the Pitcher.

But 2011 belonged to the hitters.

Sure, the all-South Jersey first team featured some top arms, led by Seneca senior Kevin Comer, the No. 57 pick in the June 6 major-league baseball draft, as well as the Inquirer player of the year, Cody Brown of Gloucester Catholic.

Comer went 6-0 with a 1.65 ERA for the Group 3 state champions. The Vanderbilt recruit struck out 63 in 421/3 innings and was 5-0 in the state tournament.

St. Augustine senior Matt Rakus, who like Comer and Brown led his team to the state championship, went 9-0 with a 2.35 ERA. He struck out 75 and walked just 14.

Holy Cross senior Jeff Singer went 9-2 with a 1.80 ERA. He struck out 79.

West Deptford's Tony Urban was 6-2 with a 1.79 ERA. The North Carolina-Ashville recruit struck out a South Jersey-best 83.

The pitchers' numbers seem even better considering all the live bats around this season.

Zagunis, the Holy Cross senior catcher, led the way with a .643 average, 11 home runs, and 44 RBIs. The Virginia Tech recruit, who hit 30 homers in his career, also stole 25 bases.

DeWitt, a pitcher and an infielder for Florence, batted .623 with 12 doubles, five triples, and six homers. DeWitt, who will attend the College of New Jersey, finished with 142 career hits.

Gloucester Catholic junior first baseman John Brue led South Jersey's No. 1 team with a .551 average, nine homers, and 56 RBIs. His classmate, Rams second baseman Joe Brooks, batted .444 with a South Jersey-best eight triples along with four homers and 43 RBIs.

Seneca senior shortstop Ryan Williams batted .451 with a team-high seven homers. Williams was at his best in the state tournament, cracking an extra-base hit in each of the Golden Eagles' final five games.

Rancocas Valley senior Devon Hedgepeth, a speedy outfielder, batted .477 with seven doubles, four triples, and two homers. He also was 8-2 on the mound.

Audubon senior outfielder Bret Phillips helped the Green Wave to the Group 1 state title. He batted .436 with 16 doubles and 43 RBIs.

St. Augustine senior Ed Charlton wasn't a typical leadoff hitter. The Hermits rightfielder batted .465 with a team-high nine homers, along with 14 doubles and 39 RBIs.

Lenape senior Jeff McGarry is the designated hitter. The University of Pennsylvania recruit batted .500 with eight doubles, eight homers, and 33 RBIs. He also was 6-3 on the mound with 54 strikeouts.

Winslow Township senior Rob Humes was a top pitcher and infielder. He excelled defensively at shortstop, batted .425 with 13 doubles, and scored 31 runs.

Contact staff writer Phil Anastasia at 856-779-3223,,

or @PhilAnastasia on Twitter.

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