Sometimes it takes a summer league baseball team a while to figure out all the pieces, and a little time for guys coming from all different schools to get comfortable with each other.
It seems the Buena Blue Dawgs are starting to hit their stride, and at just the right time with just three weeks left until the South Jersey South Shore Baseball League playoffs begin.
The Dawgs — last year’s runner-up to the South Jersey Surf — have won six straight after a pedestrian start to vault into second place in the league standings behind, yup, you guessed it, the Surf. The Surf, the defending league champion in last year’s inauguration season, have won 11 straight after a season-opening loss against the Blue Dawgs.
Buena lost to the Surf back on June 15, but since then has ripped off wins against Hammonton, Egg Harbor City, Galloway, Ventnor and Absecon. Four of those six wins were by three runs or less, as Buena has shown the ability to win close games, something it wasn’t able to do earlier in the season when it lost 1-0 to Ocean City and 3-2 to the Surf.
Denny Brady, a former Buena Regional High standout who was drafted by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the seventh round in 2017 and played four years of professional baseball, including getting as high as AA with the Rocket City Trash Pandas (Ala.) in 2021, has been outstanding for the Blue Dawgs. He’s hitting .353 with two homers and six RBIs, and in 12 innings on the hill he is 1-0 with just one earned run allowed (0.58 ERA) and 17 strikeouts. Shortstop Yan Sauri has been another solid bat in Buena’s lineup, as he’s batting .350 with 13 walks and a couple of stolen bases.
SURF’S UP: The league-leading Surf (11-1) have been getting it done with the bats and also on the mound, as last week they scored four wins, beating Northfield 6-3, Absecon 5-2, Ocean City 7-6 and Galloway 10-2. Williamstown High’s Caden Dulin has been mashing the ball, as he’s hitting .536 with three home runs and 13 RBIs. On the mound it’s former Egg Harbor Township standout Kyle Transue leading the way with 21 strikeouts and a 1.13 ERA in 12 innings.
BATS HEATING UP: The Somers Point Captains had a tough start to the season, dropping their first nine games, including six by three runs or less, but the offense has been producing. Mike Blackiston, of Deptford High and Salem County College, has been having an all-star caliber season with a .417 average that includes a team-high five home runs and 14 RBIs. Dylan Stezzi (Eastern/Rochester) is leading the Captains with a .458 average that includes three homers and seven runs scored. As a team, the Captains are batting .284 and have hit nine home runs in 10 games. The Caps picked up their first win last week, taking down Egg Harbor Township 9-6 in a game that featured six strong innings from former Millville High standout Nick Buonadonna.
NO LONGER WATER LOGGED: After getting out to a great 5-2 start, Ocean City hit the skids for a bit, dropping three straight early last week to fall to .500. But the Water Dogs righted the ship later in the week, beating the Northfield Cardinals 5-2 on Thursday before closing out the week with an 11-1 win over the Egg Harbor City Knights. Pitching has been the key for Ocean City, as Nick Pave is 2-0 with 33 strikeouts in 19 innings and a 2.57 ERA, while Matt Lawler (Mainland/William Paterson) is 2-0 with a 2.15 ERA. In the win over Northfield, Pave went six innings and allowed just two runs while striking out seven.
MVP? Northfield’s Julian Costa has certainly been putting up the numbers to be in the MVP conversation. As a hitter, he’s batting .313 with five doubles, two home runs and 12 RBIs, and on the mound he’s 2-1 in 21 innings with just three earned runs allowed and 35 strikeouts. That’s a cool 1.00 ERA. Ben Bradt (Mainland grad) and Brandon Riggs (EHT grad) have also been outstanding. Bradt carries a 1.64 ERA in 14 innings while Riggs has a 1.07 mark and is 2-1.
BIG HITTERS: Ventnor is a team that usually brings the offense, as the Bay Sox have produced 59 runs in 12 games. Alejandro Rosado, a former Pleasantville High star, is leading the way with a .389 average that includes 14 hits, two homers and nine RBIs. Omar Hernandez has three homers and 12 RBIs, and two of those dingers came in a recent win over Somers Point. Absecon has one of the league’s leading hitters as coach Ray Keelan is batting .571 with 20 hits, including six doubles, three home runs, 19 RBIs and 15 runs scored.
GAMES TO WATCH: There are some solid games to close out the month of June, as on Wednesday Ocean City travels to Ventnor and EHT looks to get a little revenge on Somers Point as the Eagles host the Captains. Also on Wednesday, the Northfield Cardinals host Buena and get a chance to inch closer to second place. On Thursday, Hammonton travels to Absecon and Ventnor, currently in seventh place, can get a chance to move up in the standings with a win over Galloway.
STANDINGS: 1. South Jersey Surf (11-1). 2. Buena Blue Dawgs (9-3). 3. Northfield Cardinals (7-5), Ocean City Water Dogs (7-5), Absecon Outlaws (7-5). 6. Egg Harbor Township Eagles (6-6). 7. Ventnor Bay Sox (5-7). 8. Hammonton Hot Shots (4-6). 9. Galloway Mustangs (3-6). 10. Egg Harbor City Knights (2-8). 11. Somers Point Captains (1-9).