Eastern ousted in semifinal

.Eastern centerfielder Matt Woods can't get to a two-run homer by Jackson's Matt Guarino. Guarino also pitched a complete game, striking out six.
.Eastern centerfielder Matt Woods can't get to a two-run homer by Jackson's Matt Guarino. Guarino also pitched a complete game, striking out six. (RON CORTES / Staff Photographer)
Posted: June 05, 2014

Nothing much changed for the Eastern baseball team from the first pitch of the opening scrimmage of the preseason to the last pitch of the Group 4 state semifinals.

"These kids just fought and fought," Vikings coach Rob Christ said. "There might not have been a lot of people who believed in them, but they believed in themselves."

It was true in late March.

It was true in early June.

Eastern battled to the bitter end, scoring the game's final three runs and getting the tying run on base in the seventh inning before losing, 6-5, to Jackson on Tuesday at Overbrook.

"We had a great year," Eastern senior shortstop Tom Flacco said. "I was happy to play with a great bunch of guys."

Flacco went 1 for 3 with a run scored and three steals in his last game for Eastern (19-10), the South Jersey champion.

Including his three years as a star quarterback in football as well as his two years as a starting guard for the basketball team, Flacco finished an outstanding career as a three-sport athlete for three programs that were among the best in South Jersey.

"Best player I ever coached," Christ said.

Flacco was the only senior to start for Eastern, which won its second consecutive sectional title with a team that featured a large group of players who were members of the junior varsity in 2013.

"What you saw the last few innings was indicative of who we are," Christ said. "This team never gives up, they go back out there every inning, and they fight and fight."

Senior lefthander Matt Guarino worked a complete game with six strikeouts and also hit a two-run homer for Jackson (19-7), the Central Jersey champion that advances to Saturday's state final at Toms River.

"The scouting report said he was a bulldog, and he was," Christ said.

Down by 6-2 after four innings, Eastern chipped away with a run in the fifth as Tyler Dixon reached on a single, advanced on a single by Joe Caruso, and scored on a ground out by Tyler Travis.

The Vikings cut the margin to 6-5 in the sixth as Ryan Keen singled, Collin Fabio reached on a fielder's choice, and freshman Davis Schneider delivered a two-run single. Schneider also hit a solo home run in the fourth.

"Some guys play baseball," Christ said. "Davis Schneider is a baseball player."

In the seventh, Eastern got a runner on when Tyler worked a two-out walk, but Guarino ended the game with his sixth strikeout.

"I wasn't that surprised," Flacco said of Eastern's successful season. "I knew we were going to be better than people thought we were going to be."

Eastern 000 212 0 - 5 8 2

Jackson 200 400 x - 6 8 1

WP: Matt Guarino. LP: Alex Schwartz. 2B: J-Kyle Lona. HR: J-Matt Guarino; E-Davis Schneider.


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