Two of the four public schools from the seven-county South Jersey area, ended up winning sectional crowns in competition that was tight in all four groups.
The two local champions were Audubon, which beat Pennsville, 4-3 to win a classic South Jersey Group I title and Highland, which defeated fellow Tri-County rival Deptford, 6-4 to claim the South Jersey Group III crown.
The other two public school titles were won by Manasquan of Monmouth County in Group II and Southern Regional of Ocean County in Group IV. Manasquan beat defending champion West Deptford, 1-0 in the sectional final. Southern Regional, which was the No. 11 seed in the loaded Group IV field, defeated No. 8 seeded Lenape, 6-2 in the final.
From a South Jersey perspective, the sectional finals proved to be a strong showing for both the Colonial and Tri-County Conference.
Audubon and West Deptford both represented the Colonial in public school sectional finals. The Tri-County Conference had three teams in public school sectional finals – Highland, Deptford and Pennsville.
And that doesn’t count Gloucester Catholic, which meets St. Rose in the Non-Public B final. Audubon’s win over Pennsville was as close as expected between the top two seeds (with Audubon seeded first).
During the regular season Audubon earned a 3-2 win over Pennsville in nine innings. The difference in both games was the performance of pitcher Andrew Fehr, who won both games. A senior righthander, Fehr pitched all nine innings in the regular season win, allowing eight hits, striking out four and walking none.
As for Highland, the Tartans avenged a 6-5 regular season loss to Deptford. In addition, Highland was a sectional finalist as the No. 2 seed, losing to top seeded Ocean City, 5-0 in the championship game.
This year, coach D.J. Gore’s team was again the No. 2 seed. (Yet another Tri-County team, Hammonton was seeded first and Highland beat the Blue Devils in two regular season games). Just advancing to a sectional final was a big deal for West Deptford, which was hit hard by graduation from last year’s state championship team.
It was an outstanding effort in defeat by West Deptford’s Jack Murphy, who allowed just four hits.
West Deptford was the No. 3 seed and Manasquan was seeded fourth in a wild Group II field.
Prior to the tournament, West Deptford lost a 4-3 decision to Audubon, but playing an eventual sectional champ prepared the Eagles for the state tournament.
As for Lenape, the Indians caught fire, ironically after not receiving a bid to the 16-team Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic.
After not earning a Diamond bid, Lenape would go 9-3 playing one of the toughest schedules down the stretch. In the tournament, the No. 8 seeded Indians had to defeat three higher seeded teams to reach the finals, No. 9 Toms River North, 8-2, No. 1 Eastern, 2-1 and No. 4 Rancocas Valley, 8-1.
It was a good run, before losing to Southern Regional, which showed everybody once again how strong Ocean County baseball is as well.
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