For Audubon, season has a happy ending

Celebrating Audubon's S.J. Group 1 title win June 1 was catcher Boomer Wickersham (right).
Celebrating Audubon's S.J. Group 1 title win June 1 was catcher Boomer Wickersham (right). (ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer)
Posted: June 11, 2012

A quirky, 2-1 loss to West Essex in the Group 2 state championship game in 2010 is all that separated this group of Audubon seniors from completing a "three-peat" to match their friendly rivals from Gloucester Catholic as well as the program's legendary class of 1996.

Still, Audubon coach Rich Horan and his seniors were in no mood to complain after the Green Wave won their second consecutive state title with a 6-1 victory over Pompton Lakes in the Group 1 state championship game Saturday at Toms River South.

"It never gets old," said Horan, who has led Audubon to seven state titles in his 21 seasons.

Horan has high praise for his senior class, which was led by lefthanded pitchers Andrew Schorr and Kevin Kraemer; along with catcher Boomer Wickersham; infielders Keith Michalski, Doug Young, and Trevor Tassi; and outfielder Josh McShane.

Schorr and Kraemer were lights-out in the state tournament, as Audubon won its six postseason games by a combined score of 36-10. Schorr capped the drive to another crown, tossing a one-hitter with eight strikeouts in the title game.

"Andrew being Andrew," Horan said of Schorr's dominating performance, which included three hits at the plate.

The Green Wave got strong work from their seniors in the tournament. Kraemer was 2-0 and shut down Central Jersey champion Florence by a 4-1 score in the state semifinals. McShane made what might have been a season-saving catch in a 4-3 victory over Pennsville in the sectional semifinals.

Michalski hit his sixth home run on Saturday. Wickersham helped guide Schorr and Kraemer through the tournament and ended up leading South Jersey in doubles with 17.

A strange loss to West Essex two years ago kept Audubon from winning three consecutive state titles. That's been done just seven times, most recently by Gloucester Catholic, which completed its "three-peat" with a 4-1 victory over Don Bosco Prep on Saturday.

Gloucester Catholic (1984-86, 1999-2001) has done it three times. Cherry Hill West (1989-91) and Audubon (1994-96) are other South Jersey programs to have won three state titles in a row.

"This was a special senior class," Horan said. "They got to the state finals three years in a row. That's not easy to do."

Tough loss for Buena. The Chiefs broke to a 4-0 lead but couldn't keep up the pace in an 11-4 loss to Mahwah in the Group 2 state title game Saturday at Toms River East.

Buena was making its first appearance in the state finals. The Chiefs won the program's first sectional title with a 14-5 victory over GCIT in the South Jersey Group 2 title game.

"We have a lot to be proud of, but as competitors you always remember the last one," Buena coach George West told the Press of Atlantic City after Saturday's game. "The last one is going to hurt for a couple of days until we see the beach and the waves and the seagulls, and then we'll forget about it for a while."

Rams rally. Gloucester Catholic coach Dennis Barth said he was "taken aback" by the Rams' play in a 4-0 loss to Millville in the first round of the Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic on May 12.

Millville pitcher Andrew Biggs threw a three-hitter that day, with 12 strikeouts.

"I didn't recognize my team," Barth said. "I was taken aback by the way we competed."

After that loss, Gloucester Catholic finished the season on an 11-0 run. It thoroughly outplayed Don Bosco Prep, which had won 22 in a row and was No. 10 in the nation in USA Today's Super 25 rankings, in a 4-1 victory in Saturday's Non-Public A state title game at Toms River North.

"They turned it around," Barth said of his players. "They did the work to make it happen."

In finishing their drive for a third straight state title, Gloucester Catholic's seniors put themselves in the company of some of the best classes in the history of the fabled program. This group went 83-13 over the last three seasons.

Gloucester Catholic has won 16 state titles, but just three in Non-Public A. Don Bosco Prep, which was ranked No. 1 in the state by the Newark Star-Ledger, might have been the best team the Rams have faced in 20 appearances in the state finals.

"We turned it around with hard work," said Gloucester Catholic senior Brett Tenuto, who sparked the Rams with a home run in the first inning.

Super season. Hammonton won its first South Jersey title since 1958 (when sectional titles were awarded, not won on the field) and played an instant classic in the state semifinals.

The Blue Devils dropped a 2-1 decision to Freehold Boro in the Group 3 state semifinals on Tuesday.

"Just a great, great high school baseball game," Hammonton coach Gary Sarno said.

The Blue Devils were 9-20 in 2011. But they turned it around with a dedicated class of nine seniors.

"The day after we lost, we took pictures and they had their uniforms on for the last time," Sarno said. "They didn't want it to end. They were like, 'Coach, can we play another game?' That's how much they came to care about each other."


Contact Phil Anastasia

at 856-779-3223, panastasia@phillynews.com, or @PhilAnastasia on Twitter. Read his blog, "Jersey Side Sports," at www.philly.com/jerseysidesports

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