By DAVE O’SULLIVAN

Staff Writer

HAMMONTON — A spring break trip to Florida seems to have done a lot of good for a bunch of guys who live near the beach and relish warmer temperatures and sunshine.

Ocean City — coming off its first baseball state championship in 2021 — got off to a rough start this year, dropping four of its first six games. But just before spring break, the Red Raiders started to heat up, getting a 3-2 win over Cedar Creek. Three straight wins in Florida followed, and Ocean City’s only loss since April 11 came during a 1-0 battle against Egg Harbor Township last week.

Junior right-hander Duke McCarron was the hard-luck loser in that game, but he’s been pitching great the last couple of weeks and that has helped Ocean City turn its season around. On Tuesday afternoon at Hammonton Lake Park, McCarron was unhittable — literally — as he spun a no-hitter with the help of teammate Dante Edwardi during the Raiders’ 8-0 win over host St. Joseph Academy.

Edwardi came on to register the final out after McCarron had reached the 110-per-game pitch limit, but by that time everything was well in hand. McCarron even helped himself out at the plate, going 2-for-4 with a monstrous home run to left field in the top of the third inning that gave Ocean City a 2-0 lead.

It’s the second no-hitter of the year for McCarron, who didn’t allow a hit in 7 innings in a 3-1 win over Osceola, Fla., during spring break. Since that 2-4 start, Ocean City has won eight of its last nine games.

Ocean City junior Duke McCarron pitched a no-hitter and also went 2-for-4 with a home run in Ocean City’s win over St. Joseph Academy. (South Jersey Glory Days photo/Sully)

“It was good. I was excited, I just wanted to get the win today. Obviously, Tommy pitched a great game yesterday and like coach (Andrew Bristol) said, when we come in here we expect to win and I just tried to do my part. That’s what happened. I threw my secondary pitch pretty well, I threw a few change-ups in there. I wish I had located a little bit better, but overall I was finding the zone,” McCarron said. “There’s part of you that, throughout the game as it’s going on, it doesn’t faze you. At the end of the game they’re like, ‘you threw a no-hitter,’ and you weren’t even thinking about it during the game. It’s pretty cool, though.”

Edwardi, normally Ocean City’s starting shortstop, said he didn’t feel any pressure to keep the no-hitter intact when he came on in relief with two outs in the bottom of the seventh. He walked the first batter he faced to put runners at the corners, but then recorded a strikeout to finish the game.

“I felt confident,” he said. “I knew everyone was going to make plays behind me, and luckily we got to close the door on them. I wasn’t thinking about (the no-hitter), I was just trying to go out there and throw strikes.”

McCarron did walk four batters and hit another, but whenever he did put a runner on base he was able to quickly work around that to avoid damage.

“He’s just a gifted kid, a special kid, and we’ve known that since his freshman year. And that’s a good team. They are well coached and they have some of the top players in our league. To do what he did against a team like that, that’s impressive,” said Ocean City head coach Andrew Bristol. “He’s a beach kid, so he loves the warm weather. It’s funny, my sons are in college and they both played for me, I talk to them every day and they were like, ‘just get to Florida, dad, and everything will change.’ It always does (down there). We come together as a team and we come back more confident, and the weather changes. That’s big for us, the weather change, and our confidence is where it should be now. We’re young, other than Tommy (Finnegan), Dylan (Oliver) and Duke, they’re young players. But they’re starting to feel a little more confident and they feel the energy.”

St. Joseph Academy first baseman Scotty DiGerolamo makes a tremendous diving play to nab Ocean City’s Noah Herrington at the bag to end the fifth inning. (South Jersey Glory Days photo/Sully

Ocean City (9-5, 4-2 Cape-Atlantic League National) — which beat St. Joe (10-3, 3-3 CAL National) in walk-off fashion in Ocean City on Monday afternoon — jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the second when Finnegan singled, went to second on a single by Evan Taylor, too, third on a fly ball to right and scored on an infield error. McCarron’s home run in the third made it 2-0, and Ocean City rallied for a couple runs in the fourth, extending its lead to 4-0 on an RBI single by Shawn Repetti and a sacrifice fly from Oliver.

“I’ve been just trying to relax up there and just trying to put the barrel on the ball, nothing too crazy, just trying to put the barrel there and hope for the best,” McCarron said.

The Red Raiders tacked on four more runs in the top of the sixth to salt the game away. McCarron stroked an RBI double to make it 5-0 and later in the inning Taylor drilled a three-run home run to left-center, pushing the lead to 8-0.

McCarron lamented the fact that he had to come out of the game one batter short of completing the no-hitter on his own, but his perspective mirrored a growing confidence in a team that is beginning to hit its stride at the right time.  

“It is what it is — there’s that part of you that’s excited because you threw really well, then there’s that other side that’s like, ‘oh, if I didn’t walk that batter.’ There are those little tiny things that cause all the factors, but that’s just baseball,” he said. “We’ve had a few tough losses in some close games, like 1-0 to EHT, but coach does a really good job of taking those as things to learn from. You don’t take those down with you; you have to climb up with those.”

What’s next: Ocean City hosts Middle Township on Thursday at 7 p.m. St. Joseph Academy travels to Mainland on Friday at 4 p.m.

Contact Dave O’Sullivan: sullyglorydays@gmail.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays