By DAVE O’SULLIVAN

Staff Writer

EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Justin Sweeney of Egg Harbor Township High and Duke McCarron of Ocean City have been playing baseball with and against each other since they were about 10 years old. When Sweeney saw his Eagles were matched up against the Red Raiders this week, he texted his buddy Duke to see who Ocean City was going to put on the mound. Duke responded with, “me.”

At that point, Sweeney knew it was going to be a helluva pitching matchup.

The game Tuesday afternoon lived up to its billing, as both right-handed hurlers were outstanding, with Sweeney’s Eagles outdueling McCarron’s Red Raiders, 1-0. The Cape-Atlantic League nonconference game took all of about 90 minutes, as there were just five total hits allowed.

McCarron, a University of Maryland commit, allowed just four hits in six innings, struck out six and walked two, and Sweeney was even better than that, limiting Ocean City to just one hit, two walks and two hit batsmen while striking out 11 in seven innings. Hits were at a premium, as 14 of the 19 players who recorded an at-bat were saddled with an 0-fer, including both Sweeney and McCarron, who were a combined 0-for-5 against one another — a testament to how good each was on the mound.

EHT junior Justin Sweeney struck out 11 and allowed just one hit in seven innings in the Eagles’ 1-0 win over Ocean City. (Glory Days photo/Sully)

“That one was tiring. That one was an intense game, for sure. Duke’s my great friend, that was awesome. I knew that was going to be an absolute battle. Thank God we scratched one across — credit to my team — but Duke threw a great game. Going into it, like I said, I knew it was going to be an absolute battle. I knew I had to have my best stuff, and he had great stuff, too. I was hitting, and he looked great. It was definitely a pitcher’s duel. I’m happy my team had my back today and made a lot of plays, and got a clutch run,” said Sweeney, a junior and Rutgers University commit. “We’ve been playing baseball since we were 10 years old, we’ve played on many teams together and became great friends. I was talking to him, just having a normal conversation, and I said, ‘yo, who’s throwing against us Tuesday?’ And he was like, ‘me.’ And I said, ‘oh, I’m throwing, too.’ That was a few days ago. It was a great game.”

“He was on. Coming into this game we knew it was going to be a pitcher’s duel. Duke McCarron is a great pitcher, and Sweeney is also a great pitcher. Everything was on, his slider was on, his fastball was on. He didn’t throw too many change-ups, but he was paining the corners. Most of it is his velocity, but the spin rate on his ball — it’s even hard for me to catch. Overall, he’s a great pitcher and a complete pitcher,” said EHT senior catcher Tristan Trivers. “As long as I can trust him, he knows he can trust me. I think you need to have that catcher-pitcher relationship for it to work. He shut them down in that first inning quickly. He came through for us.”

The only offense of the entire game came in the bottom of the second when EHT shortstop Jay Salsbery stroked a double, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on another wild pitch to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead. Sweeney ran into a little bit of trouble in the top of the second by issuing a pair of walks, but quickly worked out of that jam. He really didn’t face much pressure at all after that. He hit McCarron with a pitch in the fourth and Noah Herrington broke up the potential no-hitter with a single up the middle in the top of the fifth, but other than that it was smooth sailing for Sweeney. He retired 12 of the last 15 batters he faced.

Ocean City’s Duke McCarron allowed just one run on four hits while striking out six against Egg Harbor Township. (Glory Days photo/Sully)

“In the second inning, something was wrong. I felt something wrong mechanically,” Sweeney said. “I went out in the third and I said, ‘alright, I have eight pitches to figure out what’s going wrong.’ Luckily I figured out what was going wrong, I got the slider going. That’s two games in a row when I’ve gotten the slider going late, so I have to work on that, but I’m happy. I figured it out and scrapped it out.”

The Eagles will need some more outstanding performances ahead if they hope to continue their winning ways, as the schedule doesn’t let up much at all. After hosting Oakcrest on Thursday, EHT takes on Middletown South on Saturday in the “Thank You Classic” — a statewide salute to umpires and fans — then squares off against St. Augustine Prep on Monday and Tuesday. St. Augustine Prep (9-0, 5-0 Cape-Atlantic League American) leads EHT (9-2, 3-0) by a game in the standings. Ocean City (5-5, 2-2 CAL National) has a similarly tough schedule, squaring off against Ranney in the Thank You Classic before a two-game series against St. Joseph Academy to start next week.

“The only thing on our minds is taking it one game at a time,” Sweeney said. (Head coach Bryan Carmichael) has been busting our butts at practice and we’ve been trying to do that for each other. We’ve been trying to stay away from being individuals and act like a team. That’s what EHT is all about, that’s what we’ve always been known for. I’m very happy. I’m not satisfied, but I’m very happy. In my opinion, this is all a build-up to the playoffs. Once we get to the playoffs, that’s when things really start to matter. I’ll keep riding this right now, keep riding the good feeling and keep practicing hard. It feels great right now and I’ll keep going forward with my head high. We play a great (St. Augustine) Prep team next week, so I’m excited.”

Added Trivers, “I think we just need to work together as a team. As long as we come together and practice well as a team, I think we can beat anybody in South Jersey.”

What’s next: EHT hosts Oakcrest on Thursday at 4 p.m. Ocean City hosts Cape May Tech on Thursday at 4 p.m.

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