By DAVE O’SULLIVAN Publisher COLONIA — After a 1-7 start to the season, the seniors on the Holy Spirit baseball team figured the only thing they would have a chance to get fitted for by season’s end would be prom blazers. Now they’ll have to figure out the size of their ring finger. The 10th-seeded Spartans capped off an amazing playoff run on Wednesday afternoon by beating No. 4 Marist 7-1 at Colonia High School to win the Non-Public B South championship — the school’s first South Jersey title since 1984. Holy Spirit will have a chance to win its first state championship since 1982 this Saturday in Toms River. Holy Spirit advances to the Non-Public B state championship game, where it will face Newark Academy. “We said it all year, even when we were slow out of the gate, that we were going to work hard and work toward a run in the state tournament. And the guys stayed with us and continued to do it,” said Holy Spirit head coach Steve Normane. “They have just been playing their hearts out for four straight games, and we’ve got one more to go.” Holy Spirit players celebrate with the trophy after winning their first sectional title since 1984. “There’s no better feeling as a coach than seeing your guys respond and execute the things that we have gone over a thousand times in practice,” Normane said. “Like that first-and-third play, Spicer was completely under control, gave a good pump fake and we nailed the guy at third.” Holy Spirit (13-16), which finished tied for sixth place in the Cape-Atlantic League American Conference, jumped out early on Marist starter Mike Christopolous, and by the time the Royal Knights turned to ace A.J. Candelario in the second inning, it was too late. Burns led off the game with a walk and A.J. Russo followed with a hit-by-pitch. Anthony Boselli then laced an RBI single to right and Marczyk walked to load the bases, setting the stage for Lefferts. Lefferts cleared the bases with a long drive to left-center before Christopolous was able to work out of the jam for Marist (17-12). Boselli’s two-run double to left-center in the fourth pushed the lead to 6-1, and Joe Porpora, pinch-running for Joe Hartley, scored on the front end of a double steal in the fifth to make it 7-1. Spicer retired eight of the final 11 batters, including a pair of strikeouts in the bottom of the seventh, to seal the victory. “We got some big hits from our seniors. And that’s what we’ve been preaching the whole time. Throw strikes, play defense and get some key hits, and we’ll be fine. And we executed all of that today,” Normane said. “Again, these guys have had a rough year and could have folded, but they didn’t. All seven of them, I give them a ton of credit because they stuck with it, the embraced their role and they have come up clutch. They have been phenomenal, and we’re going to miss them when they are gone.” “It means everything, knowing how long it’s been since we won the last one. Last year, getting upset so early, then to make a run this year. At the beginning of the year we had a bumpy road, but we didn’t let it get to us. We knew we were a better team than we played,” Burns said. “We knew not to give up. We knew to be harder on the guys and let them know that they are better than what we had been playing, and that we are a better team. I feel like we really came together as a team when we were losing. We were a lot harder on each other, but we all knew that we were just trying to make each other better. It worked.” Marczyk said the key to Holy Spirit’s turnaround has been simply cleaning up the little things, the fundamentals that ultimately win baseball games. “We absolutely could have thrown in the towel, but we knew we were a talented team from the beginning. We just had one bad inning in a lot of those games (early in the season) and that cost us, and you can see now that we’re not having those bad innings,” Marczyk said. “We’re playing a complete game now.” Burns said he won’t be forgetting this game anytime soon. “It’s amazing. This is something you’re going to tell your kids when you are older. It’s definitely one of the greatest moments of my life,” Burns said. “Just being with your team the entire season and having it pay off means everything.” Contact Dave O’Sullivan: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @GDsullysays [adsense]
About The Author
Sully, as he’s known throughout South Jersey, began his newspaper career in 1995 and has worked for some of New Jersey’s top papers, including The Asbury Park Press and Press of Atlantic City, as a writer and editor. He’s earned several New Jersey Press Association awards and continues to produce high quality reporting, writing and photography. A native of Ocean County, Sully played high school baseball at Lacey Township High and college baseball at Pfeiffer University in North Carolina. After a successful 15-year career in the newspaper business, Sully launched Glory Days Magazine in 2013 and for nearly a decade has been bringing fans outstanding and insightful coverage of high school sports throughout South Jersey.