Bishop Eustace advances to semifinals

Posted: May 31, 2013

There were no surprises, no secrets.

How could there be when the two Olympic Conference National Division rivals had met four times this season?

Bishop Eustace ended up winning the best-of-five season series against Camden Catholic with Wednesday's 5-1 victory over the visiting Irish in a South Jersey Non-Public A baseball quarterfinal.

Third-seeded Eustace (22-7) will visit St. Augustine in Friday's sectional semifinals. That Camden Catholic (19-10) was a No. 11 seed spoke volumes about the difficulty that exists in Non-Public A.

And even more challenging was trying to beat Eustace righthander Zac Gallen. The University of North Carolina recruit pitched with grit, throwing a six-hitter and getting out of several jams.

As for playing one team five times?

"It's crazy," said Gallen, who also beat the Irish in their first meeting, 9-4, on April 4.

This was a game in which Eustace coach Sam Tropiano didn't have to pull out one of his special motivational speeches.

The Crusaders had lost the previous two against Camden Catholic, including a 4-3 decision in the Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic semifinals. The only motivation was simply doing the math.

"We knew they won the last two and it's tough to beat a team three times in a row," Gallen said. "We were just coming out there with a little bit of intensity."

That was something neither team lacked.

"I thought we fought back and battled, but you have to give them credit, too. They scratched and clawed and put up a run here and there," Irish coach Bob Bergholtz said.

Eustace took a 2-0 lead in the second without the benefit of a hit. The inning featured a hit batter, two walks, a passed ball for the first run, and an RBI groundout by Gallen.

That was all the righthander would need, although he got out of two bases-loaded jams, one with one out in the fourth inning and the other with two out in the sixth.

The only run he allowed was a fourth-inning home run by Christian Bilan.

"He was a bulldog and really got after it and made pitches when he needed to, and we basically jumped on his back and he carried us," Tropiano said.

That is what aces should do, and Eustace has another in Devin Smeltzer (8-2), who is ready to pitch against St. Augustine, a team that also knows something about sending quality pitchers to the mound.

Eustace also received an RBI single from Steve DeBellis, an RBI double by Justin Hagenman, and a solo home run by Smeltzer.

Tropiano said his team played Gloucester Catholic five times in 2009, but three were in one early-season tournament.

This was different, especially since Eustace and Camden Catholic are in the Olympic National. Not surprisingly, they shared the division title.

"As disappointed as we were to lose to them in the Diamond, that is how joyful we were to advance today," Tropiano said.

Camden Catholic 000 100 0 - 1 6 0

Bishop Eustace 021 110 x - 5 6 1

WP: Zac Gallen. LP: Dan Hartson. 2B: BE-Gallen, Justin Hagenman 2. HR: C-Christian Bilan; BE-Devin Smeltzer.


Contact Marc Narducci at mnarducci@phillynews.com.

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