Staff Report

The South Jersey South Shore Baseball League postseason began this week, and there’s an unlikely team making some noise as the No. 10 Galloway Mustangs — the lowest seed in this year’s playoffs — scored an upset win over No. 7 Egg Harbor City in the play-in round on Monday and are two wins away from advancing to next week’s semifinal round.

The league features 12 teams, and the Nos. 7-10 teams had to battle it out on Monday to fill out the eight-team playoff bracket. Galloway scored a 2-1 win over Egg Harbor City in a pitcher’s duel, while No. 9 Ventnor outlasted No. 8 Buena, 9-7, as the Bay Sox wiggled out of a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the seventh, stranding the tying and winning runs on base.

Galloway is now pitted against No. 2 South Jersey Surf — the two-time defending league champion — while Ventnor advanced to take on top-seeded Margate. Both Margate and the Surf scored close wins on Tuesday night in the opening game of a best-of-3 series. The other two series feature No. 4 Hammonton vs. No. 5 Absecon and No. 3 Northfield vs. No. 6 Ocean City. All four higher seeded teams won the opening game of their respective three-game series on Tuesday night.

The star of the show for Galloway in Monday’s play-in round was Stephen DeMilio, son of coach Buddy DeMilio and a 2022 Pinelands Regional High graduate. He had a no-hitter going into the fifth inning against Egg Harbor City before it was broken up by a bunt single. When DeMilio got to a pre-set pitch count limit he and his father agreed on, the Mustangs turned to Jake Fowler and Evan Schofler to close things out.

“(Stephen) had a no-no going into the 5th and they broke it up with a bunt. He had a very strong outing,” Buddy DeMilio said. “Jake Fowler came in and got a couple outs for us but ran into a problem with a couple of walks and it was suddenly 2-1. So I brought in Evan to get four outs, and that kid is a warrior. He did a great job and we had great pitching the whole night. Their pitching is really good, too, real solid. They’re a pretty formidable lineup. They’re very good team. They can definitely hit. It was a very good team effort. And like I said, we just got a couple of good hits at the right time. It was a great win. We played a very sound game, and they did, too. It was fun. What a game.”

Egg Harbor City countered with Joe Hamill, a former standout at Cedar Creek High. “It was a good game, we got a couple timely hits and some decent base running. (Hamill) shut us down pretty good. He’s got some velo on the fastball and he’s got a very good hook, so he was solid. That kid was grinding,” coach DeMilio said.

DeMilio said he knew if his team was going to win against the Knights, it had to be a low-scoring game.

“I wasn’t expecting us to put up huge numbers,” he said. “We have some kids who can hit and I knew our starter was on a strict pitch count, so I just didn’t know if we would hold on or not. I was hoping we would have a lead when (Stephen) came out of the game.”

The first half of the season was a frustrating grind for Galloway, as the Mustangs got off to a 1-8 start and were in last place after nine games, but since then they went 6-6 to overtake Egg Harbor Township and Somers Point and sneak into the playoffs. What was the biggest difference?

“Well, that’s a good question,” DeMilio quipped. “We lost a lot of close games in that 1-8. I I don’t know that we really got blown out — maybe once or twice all season. It’s just one of those things, we kind of kept it together. It always comes down to pitching. My son was shut down in the beginning of the season, and then we started ramping him up midway through the season and (Nick) Danbrowney came in, ready to roll, and he’s a great pitcher.”

Galloway doesn’t have the most fearsome batting lineup in the league but certainly can hold its own with pitching and defense, and that’s what coach DeMilio says his team has to be very good at if it hopes to upset the defending league champion and move on.

“The hope is that we play very good defense. We’ve done that all season, we’ve been very solid,” he said. “Our hope is we can keep the ball in the yard. We just hope to miss the barrels as much as we can. If we can keep away from the freebies and play our defense I do think we can scratch across some runs. We are 100 percent playing with house money.”\

Here’s a quick look at how the league playoffs are shaking out so far:

Play-In Round: (10) Galloway d. (7) Egg Harbor City 2-1 (Egg Harbor City eliminated); (9) Ventnor d. Buena 9-7 (Buena eliminated).

Quarterfinals (Best-of-3 series): (1) Margate d. (9) Ventnor 5-2 (Margate leads series 1-0); (2) S.J. Surf d. (10) Galloway 4-3 (Surf lead series 1-0); (3) Northfield s. (6) Ocean City 5-2 (Northfield leads series 1-0); No. 4 Hammonton d. (5) Absecon 3-2 (Hammonton leads series 1-0). All four series continue tonight and Thursday, if necessary.