Staff Report

The Cape-Atlantic League divisional races are all but over but there’s plenty to look forward to this week with league tournaments happening in baseball softball and both boys and girls lacrosse. This is the last big tune-up prior to the state playoffs so every team involved will be looking to get hot right now.

Here’s a quick look at the matchups in each tournament, and why each team can win it all.

BASEBALL

No. 1 Buena and No. 2 St. Augustine Prep have first-round byes today. In the other matchups this afternoon it will be No. 6 Absegami at No. 3 Vineland and No. 5 Egg Harbor Township at No. 4 Lower Cape May. The semifinals are on Wednesday with the Gami/Vineland winner visiting Prep and the EHT/Lower winner heading to Buena. The championship game is Friday at the highest remaining seed.

Why they can win it:

Buena: The Chiefs have seven post-grad student-athletes taking advantage of one more year of high school ball because of the covid rule, so they have plenty of experience. They are 19-2 with their only losses coming to Absegami and Diamond Classic finalist Cherry Hill West. Their schedule hasn’t been all that tough but they do have two wins over Cedar Creek and a win over Audubon. To win it all they need to rely on their pitching and their 1.97 team ERA. Joey Kurtz leads the way with 54 strikeouts in 41 1/3 innings and has a 1.19 ERA, and Brandon and Zachary Strouse can also be relied on in big games.

St. Augustine Prep: The Hermits may have a host of new names this year but they have that championship tradition on their side. They expect to win big games, and that kind of confidence is hard to fake. They are just 2-3 in their last five games, however. To win it all they need to hit, plain and simple. In three of their six losses they’ve been shut out and they are hitting .279 as a team. But they have scored double digits in six of their 15 wins, so when the hits come, they come in bunches.

Vineland: The Fighting Clan had a great stretch in late April but have hit some snags recently, having lost four of their last six games. But they do have two shutouts in the last three games, so they may be getting back on track. To win it all, they have to hit, and run. Vineland has six guys with 18 or more hits and as a team they have 52 stolen bases in 22 games. They need to get on base and cause some commotion to disrupt opposing pitchers.

Lower Cape May: The Caper Tigers have won four of their last five, and prior to a loss to Cherokee to open the Diamond Classic, Lower had ripped off eight straight wins. The schedule has been a little light, however, with their best win coming on the road, 8-2, against Middle Township. To win it all they need to draw walks, and avoid them as a pitching staff. Offensively, the Tigers have walked 106 times in 17 games, but their pitching staff has also yielded 85 free passes.

Egg Harbor Township: The Eagles have been inconsistent since losing their best player, Justin Sweeney, to injury early on, but they are still three games above .500 and have one of the best pitchers in the state in Cameron Flukey. They split with Prep and have quality wins over Cedar Creek, Hammonton, Vineland, Millville and Ocean City. They can win it all if they play good defense. A couple of errors cost them a win against Delsea in the Diamond Classic, but this team can do enough offensively and on the mound to advance through this tournament, if they don’t beat themselves.

EHT senior Cameron Flukey is one of the best pitchers in the state and tops out around 97 miles-per-hour with his fastball. (South Jersey Glory Days photo/Sully)

Absegami: The Braves have been playing well at the right time, having won three in a row and five of their last seven. The big difference has been offensively. Absegami scored eight runs in a win over Holy Spirit, 12 in a win over Middle and nine in a win over Lower Cape May. They can win it all if they keep hitting and scoring. They are averaging 6.5 runs per game the last seven games, and that has to continue for them to have a chance to win this tournament.

SOFTBALL

Egg Harbor Township, the No. 1 seed, is the defending champion and favorite to win it all this year, but the Eagles will have some competition. St. Joseph Academy is the No. 2 seed and got the other first-round bye. Today’s first-round action features No. 6 Millville at No. 3 Ocean City and No. 5 Vineland at No. 4 Holy Spirit. Wednesday’s semifinals will feature the Vineland/Spirit winner at EHT and the Millville/Ocean City winner at St. Joe. Championship is Friday at the highest remaining seed.

Why they can win it:

Egg Harbor Township: Simple, they are the best team in South Jersey and one of the best in the state. The Eagles’ only loss is to another state power, Donovan Catholic, and EHT’s lineup is a nightmare to get through. If they hit like they are capable and play good defense it won’t be a surprise to see them win this tournament.

St. Joseph Academy: The Wildcats have just five losses this year and two of them came against EHT. This team knows how to win and they have one of the top pitchers in South Jersey in Ava Fisher, who has 160 strikeouts in just 108 innings. They can win it if freshman phenom Alaina Dorsey continues to get on base and the pitching staff limits walks. The Wildcats’ pitchers have walked 98 batters and hit another 19, so that’s a lot of free base runners. Dorsey has been outstanding all year, hitting .439 with 25 hits, 21 runs, 15 walks and 10 stolen bases.

Ocean City: The Red Raiders have been rolling since late April, having won 11 of their last 12, including wins over OLMA, Buena, Middle Township, Absegami and Mainland. The pitching staff has allowed just eight runs the last four games and freshman Brooke Douglas has five home runs and 14 RBIs. They can win it all if they continue to pitch the way they have. Douglas and fellow freshman Jessica Mooney have combined for 216 strikeouts in 137 innings and have a team ERA of 2.14

Holy Spirit: This team went through the CAL United schedule unscathed and has won six straight, including three via shutout. The downside for the Spartans is they have not played an extremely challenging schedule, but they’ve won the games they needed to, like against OLMA, Absegami and Oakcrest. They can win it all if they find ways to get on base and score runs against tough pitchers. The Spartans are hitting .331 as a team and have drawn 84 walks in 18 games. They’ll need to continue to work counts, get pitch counts up and take advantage of late-game scoring chances.

Holy Spirit has won six straight games heading into the Cape-Atlantic League Tournament. (South Jersey Glory Days photo/Juli Fortis)

Vineland: This is probably a better team than a No. 5 seed, but the Fighting Clan have been inconsistent this year. They haven’t won more than two in a row at any point, but they also haven’t lost more than two in a row at any time. They can win it all if they play good defense and get some timely power. They have 45 extra-base hits as a team, including eight home runs, and they might need a long ball or two in a key moment to advance.

Millville: The Thunderbolts are just 8-8 but have won four of their last seven, including wins over Vineland and Hammonton, and lost just 2-0 to EHT. They can win it all if they get the right matchups for their three pitchers, Alyssa Magazu, Isabella Musey and Jaslene Negron. They don’t strike out a ton of batters, so the defense will have to play well behind them, too.

BOYS LACROSSE

The CAL lacrosse tournaments feature just four teams, and this year Ocean City got the No. 1 seed. The Red Raiders will face No. 4 Cedar Creek on Wednesday, with the other semifinal featuring No. 3 Mainland at No. 2 Lower Cape May.

Why they can win it:

Ocean City: Don’t let the 9-6 record fool you, this team always plays really tough non-league games to get ready for the state playoffs. The Raiders have dominated the CAL with only Holy Spirit coming within two goals of them. If they stay focused and do what they do, they should be able to capture this trophy.

Lower Cape May: The Tigers’ only loss came against Holy Spirit, but they haven’t played any tough teams in their non-league schedule. They can win it all if they get big games from their big scorers. Macky Bonner, Brandon Loper and Jake Robson have combined to score 107 of the team’s 229 goals.

Mainland: The Stangs have just three losses, but two of them have come in the last two weeks, including a 10-9 setback against Lower and an 11-4 loss against Ocean City. They can win it all if they win faceoffs. Mainland needs to control the ball and shorten the game.

Cedar Creek: The Pirates would love to wipe away the memory of an 18-2 thumping at the hands of Lower Cape May last Thursday, and they’ll get their chance Wednesday against Ocean City. It will be a tough task, but the Pirates can win it all if find a way to score some early goals, keep possession and get good defensive play.

GIRLS LACROSSE

Wednesday’s semifinals feature No. 4 Our Lady of Mercy Academy at top-seeded Ocean City, and No. 3 Mainland visiting No. 2 Holy Spirit.

Why they can win it:

Ocean City: The Red Raiders’ four losses have to come against really tough non-league opponents, as they’ve thoroughly dominated the CAL. The only CAL team to come within six goals of Ocean City was Holy Spirit in a 17-11 loss. OC can win it if it continues to get balanced scoring. The Raiders have eight players with 15 or more goals, including junior Delainey Sutley, who has 51.

Holy Spirit: The Spartans were in the championship game last year and lost to Ocean City, so they’d love to get a rematch. They can win it all if they really clamp down on defense. Their two losses came against Ocean City and the Red Raiders scored 36 goals in those two games.

Mainland: The Stangs have shown the ability to score as they’ve notched 150 goals in 15 games. To win it all they need to score and get big games from the likes of Jane Meade, Eva Blanco and Ava Sheeran.

OLMA: At one point the Villagers had an 11-game winning streak going before a loss to Williamstown on Saturday. They can win it all if they score like they have in their wins. They’ve scored in double digits in all 13 of their wins, but in the three losses have combined to score just 18 goals.