By DAVE O’SULLIVAN

Staff Writer

GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — First-year Absegami High baseball coach Junior Mejia, a longtime assistant at Atlantic City, knew it would take some time this season for things to come together and for the Braves to buy in to his philosophies and coaching style.

It took all of about three weeks. The Braves are all-in, and have won six straight games, including a confidence-building 1-0 victory over district rival Cedar Creek on a blustery Monday afternoon.

Absegami began the season losing five of its first eight games, but since a 12-8 win over Holy Spirit on April 25, the Braves have been on an absolute tear that has put them into second place behind another red-hot team, Ocean City, in the Cape-Atlantic League National Conference standings. Absegami swept the season series against Holy Spirit and Atlantic City and also scored a 4-1 win over GCIT, and suddenly the Braves are thinking playoffs and maybe making a run in the South Jersey Group 3 tournament.

Senior Krish Sheth got the win for Absegami against rival Cedar Creek, allowing just one hit and no runs in four innings. (South Jersey Glory Days photo/Sully)

Seniors Krish Sheth and Drew Baldino combined on the shutout, limiting Cedar Creek to just four hits. Sheth was outstanding in four innings, allowing just one hit while striking out three despite some struggles in the first inning on a mound that took some time to repair after warm-ups due to a couple days of rain over the weekend.

“I was just missing corners a little bit, but after the second inning I began to settle in and find my breaking ball and was getting guys out,” Sheth said. “The guys were making all the plays behind me. The first inning I was missing my spots, but when it got to the third inning I just said, ‘I’m just going to go out there and throw strikes and see what happens.’ The guys made plays for me and did a phenomenal job.”

Baldino was equally effective in his three innings of relief for Absegami (9-5, 4-2 CAL National), striking out five, allowing just three hits and working his way out of a second-and-third, one-out jam in the top of the sixth to preserve the shutout.

“I’m not thinking ahead to next year, but I’m kind of sad that we have to lose those two guys so quickly,” Mejia said of Sheth and Baldino. “I would have liked to have had another year with them. All we ask of them is to go out there, throw strikes, do your job, hit spots. And today they did a great job of that. Krish had a hard time of that in the beginning and I think that was because of the mound being soft, but he made the adjustment. Around the third inning he started getting comfortable. He wasn’t comfortable in the beginning, but we just kept talking him through it, saying, ‘hey, forget about the mound and just hit your spots.’”

The game’s only run came in the bottom of the first as leadoff man Vraj Sheth singled to left, moved to second when Frankie Gargione was hit by a pitch, and after a double steal, trotted home on Baldino’s single to center. That was hit offensively for both teams. Cedar Creek’s best threat came in the top of the sixth when the Pirates put runners at second and third with one out, but Baldino got a strikeout and groundout to wiggle out of the jam.

“Krish just set it up for us, giving up no runs against a team like this — they’re pretty good. The energy just transferred over to me. My slider was a little out, but my fastball was there. The coaches and the players give me energy and make me confident when I’m on the mound,” Baldino said. “We’re swinging the bats better, making more contact and not striking out as much, which is good. It’s been all my teammates, they’re making the plays and hitting the ball well.”

Cedar Creek right fielder Adam Smith makes a tremendous diving catch during the Pirates’ matchup with Absegami. (South Jersey Glory Days photo/Sully)

“They are buying into our system and playing as a team. We’re getting better each and every day,” Mejia said. “I did expect it them to take a little time to get used to me. (Former coach Mike) DeCicco did a great job, but it’s a new coaching staff with new personalities, and things are going to change. Thankfully, they’ve done a great job (in adjusting). I said it from Day One, we are young but we have talent here. Most of our team is sophomores and juniors, but they are scrappy ballplayers. They have speed and hit for contact, and make things happen.”

Nathan Kennedy took the hard-luck loss for Cedar Creek (11-7, 5-4 CAL National), but he was every bit as impressive as Sheth and Baldino. He allowed just three hits on his 75 pitches in six innings, struck out eight and didn’t walk a batter. But in the end, Cedar Creek’s four-game winning streak was stopped while the Braves’ hot streak continues. The teams square off in a rematch today at Cedar Creek.

“Early in the season we had some guys injured, but we had two big transfers come in (from ACIT, outfielder Anthony Danieli and second baseman Samuel Austin) and they’ve fit into some big roles. And we’ve been throwing the ball well, hitting it well and making less errors. We’ve been getting on a roll,” Sheth said. “I’m just going to keep doing what I do. I’m confident the guys will make the plays behind me. Today, we struggled a little bit hitting the ball, but once we get that going I think we’ll be in a good spot. I had a little bit of bicep tendinitis in the beginning of the season, but now I feel good. We have two more series, against Mainland and Ocean City, and I think we’ll finish strong heading into the playoffs.”

“This is great. We’re really having fun and the players are really having fun,” Mejia said. “You can see they are enjoying it. I told them, enjoy this but don’t get cocky, stay humble and let’s keep playing games. Keep playing the game the way we’ve been teaching it, and if they keep doing that, we’ll be fine.”

What’s next: Absegami travels to Cedar Creek today at 4 p.m.

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