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Eustace Baseball Living Up...

Eustace Baseball Living Up...

Eustace Baseball Living Up to Preseason Billing

Bishop Eustace was expected to have one of the top baseball teams in South Jersey and so far, coach Sam Tropiano’s Crusaders have lived up to that billing.

Eustace started the week 8-2 and is coming off a 4-1 win over a St. Augustine team that had been the consensus No. 1 team in South Jersey.

The win, came in a setting that Eustace would have preferred avoiding – in the consolation game of its own Tom Heinkel Tournament.

Eustace had lost its opening game to Pennsylvania’s Episcopal Academy, 4-1. St. Augustine fell to Pennsylvania’s Malvern Prep, 3-2 in its first round game, thus causing the consolation matchup.

Last year St. Augustine beat Eustace, 4-3, in eight innings in the South Jersey Non-public A championship.

Don’t be surprised if both teams meet again. They also could potentially face each other in the 16-team Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic, which begins the second week of May. Both teams are serious candidates to earn a berth.

Eustace already owns one championship this season, winning the Audubon Ralph Shaw tourney, beating the hosts, 12-7 in the championship game. The Crusaders have a powerful offense and a strong pitching staff, which explains this season’s success.

One of the key leaders is shortstop-pitcher Matt Orlando, among the top juniors in South Jersey. Orlando has already committed to the University of Maryland. He was the winning pitcher against St. Augustine, improving his record to 3-0.

Centerfielder John Piacentino, who has committed to Penn State, led the way on offense against St. Augustine with a solo home run and three RBI.

This is a Eustace team that has great balance throughout its lineup.

For instance, the MVP of the Ralph Shaw Tournament was senior third baseman Joe Oczkowski, who reached base all five in the championship win over Audubon.

The offensive catalyst is leadoff hitter Sky Duff, a senior infielder-pitcher who has signed with the University of Pittsburgh. Duff is also taking a more prominent role on the pitching staff. He has been in the rotation early in the season but earned the safe by striking out three in a scoreless seventh inning against St. Augustine.

Among the other key offensive players for Eustace are junior leftfielder Mike Guzzardo, senior catcher Ryan Colbert, senior first baseman Christian Capaldi, sophomore second baseman Chase Conklin and sophomore outfielder-designated hitter Nick Senior.

Besides Orlando and Duff, other key members of the staff include senior righthander Nick Dziuba, freshman lefthander Joe Mascio.

Before even thinking of the playoffs, Eustace will be challenged in the Olympic Conference National Division, where Seneca, a South Jersey Group 3 contender, is a major threat. In addition, Timber Creek and Paul VI are others to watch in this deep conference.

Eustace, with its difficult schedule will certainly be ready for the state tournament.

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Author: Marc Narducci; Photo by Marc Narducci

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