Marc Narducci: Audubon baseball team in familiar spot - playing for state title

Audubon head coach Rich Horan, who earlier this season earned his 400th win, calls reaching the state championship game "the ultimate goal."
Audubon head coach Rich Horan, who earlier this season earned his 400th win, calls reaching the state championship game "the ultimate goal." (RON CORTES / Staff Photographer)
Posted: June 08, 2012

Audubon's baseball team had just earned a hard-fought 4-1 win over Florence in the state Group 1 semifinals on Tuesday, and the players reacted as if it were an April win over a Colonial Conference foe.

There was no jumping around, no yelling, no celebrating.

Oh sure, the bus ride home no doubt had some cheering, but the Green Wave acted as if they had been there.

And as anybody who knows the storied history of the program realizes, Audubon baseball has been there, time and time again.

And the Green Wave have arrived there once more.

When Audubon meets Pompton Lakes at 2 p.m. Saturday in the Group 1 final at Toms River South, the Green Wave will be vying for their eighth state title since the advent of NJSIAA championships in 1971.

Audubon's seven state titles are tied with Hamilton East for the most in the state by a public school.

This is the third consecutive year that Audubon is in the final. The Green Wave lost, 2-1, to powerhouse West Essex in the 2010 Group 2 state final. Last season, Audubon scored an 8-6 win over Waldwick in the state Group 1 championship.

So when Audubon meets for preseason practice in March, all the talk centers on still playing into the second week of June.

"It is the ultimate goal," said Audubon coach Rich Horan, who earlier this season earned his 400th win and has guided the Green Wave to six of the seven state titles. "We call it the 'Big Show.' "

This is a program that has a big-school mentality, despite being in the smallest enrollment group. Audubon competed in the Diamond Classic, with the top teams in South Jersey, and lost to eventual champion Bishop Eustace, 5-3, in the first round.

Earlier, Audubon traveled to South Carolina and won all four of its games.

"This is why we love to compete in the Diamond and in places like South Carolina, because it gets us ready for the pressure cooker," Horan said.

In addition, there is an understanding that each class has tradition to uphold.

"There are high standards here, and it is state championship or nothing," said catcher Boomer Wickersham, who leads South Jersey with 17 doubles.

Audubon has lefthander Andrew Schorr (9-1) ready to go. He'll be pitching with plenty of rest, having thrown last on May 25.

Many small schools and even a number of larger ones try to ride one pitcher that final week, going Tuesday in the state semifinals and Saturday in the final.

Audubon has the luxury of two lights-out lefthanders. Kevin Kraemer was the winner over Florence, striking out 12 in 62/3 innings.

"The expectations are to be here every year," he said.

Kraemer, who has won three straight state semifinals to vault his team to this spot, says this means more because he is a senior.

"This is where you want to be," he said.

There is nothing more special, regardless of the sport, than for a player to end his or her career in a state-championship setting. And of course, Kraemer, Schorr, Wickersham, and company aren't just happy to be here.

It might seem harsh to consider a season unsuccessful if the team doesn't win a state final, but that is how Audubon is programmed.

There are no moral victories but plenty of real ones as one of the state's elite programs finds its season once again concluding in the familiar environment of the Big Show.

Contact Marc Narducci

at 856-779-3225,

or on Twitter @sjnard.

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