The St. Augustine Prep baseball team remains the last squad alive in the hunt for a sectional title. Friday’s 4-2 win over Bishop Eustace has the Hermits in Monday’s Non-Public A South final against Gloucester Catholic.
Despite the lack of potential hardware elsewhere, it still has been a successful year for many programs, including Vineland, Buena and Delsea, which all joined the Hermits as qualifiers in this year’s Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic.
So with the 2013 season hitting into its last out, it’s time to hand out this year’s Hardball Hero awards, a precursor to this month’s Player of the Year, Team of the Year and All-Star announcements.
Remember, these awards are just for fun and have no bearing on the aforementioned forthcoming honors.
Without further delay, here are this year’s Hardball Heroes:
⬛ Best on the Bases: Christian Adorno, St. Augustine — The senior stole a whopping 33 bases on 34 attempts, a 97-percent success rate, while leading the Hermits with 34 runs entering Friday.
⬛ Best Bat: Barry Buchowski, St. Augustine — The Tulane-bound senior far and away leads the area in home runs with six, twice as many as the next closest player, and is the top run-producer locally with 29 RBIs and counting.
⬛ Best Glove:
Marco Rios, Buena — Only a sophomore, Rios is already one of the top fielders in the Cape-Atlantic League along with Adorno. The Chiefs’ shortstop should be frustrating plenty of hitters over the next two seasons.
⬛ Best Arms: Don Money, Vineland and Chris Oakley, St. Augustine — Money and Oakley entered Friday’s action tied with eight wins apiece, though Oakley may have gotten the last laugh when he got the better of Money head-to-head in a 4-0 Prep win over the Fighting Clan on May 23. Oakley, a likely MLB draft pick, produces more swings and misses (49) while Money owns the better ERA at 1.40.
⬛ Top Newcomer:
Chris Capriotti, Buena — Capriotti is no stranger to the varsity diamond, he was the winning pitcher in Buena’s 2011 Diamond Classic championship, but his first regular exposure came this year as a senior. The right-hander went 7-2 this season with a 0.96 ERA. Prep junior left-hander Zach Warren also gets a nod here. The Vineland resident has posted a 6-1 record with 65 strikeouts and a 1.20.
⬛ Top Freshman: Ja’Ques Colon, Vineland — Colon led Vineland with 31 runs, was second on the team with 27 hits entering Friday’s game against Sacred Heart and swiped a team-high 23 bases to go with a .380 batting average. The freshman outfielder also is reliable on defense.
⬛ Most Important to his Team: Nick Freijomil, Delsea — The senior’s biggest contribution came on the mound, where Freijomil fronted the staff with a 6-1 record, 1.69 ERA and tie for the area lead in strikeouts with 65 entering Friday. Freijomil hit .366 with 17 RBIs and scored a team-high 20 runs.
⬛ Grittiest Player: Roberto Rivera, Millville — A three-sport athlete, Rivera’s work ethic is evident on the diamond as the junior led by example for the Bolts this year. Rivera, who never hesitated to get his uniform dirty, boasts leadership qualities that are likely overlooked.
⬛ Biggest Turnaround (team):
Cumberland — After winning just six games in 2012, the Colts rebounded this spring under first-year coach Sam Parks. Cumberland faded a bit down the stretch, but did qualify for the Group III South playoffs and scored one of the bigger wins in South Jersey this year by topping state power Gloucester Catholic.
⬛ Best Game:
Cumberland 5, Gloucester Catholic 4, April 30 — The Colts rallied for three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to knock off Gloucester Catholic, then the No. 1-ranked team in the state and 11th in the country by USA Today. Cumberland became the first in-state team to beat the Rams this year and just the second overall. Gloucester Catholic’s other loss came in South Carolina on April 6. Austin Griffie, Zach Evans and Tyler Chiarello each had RBIs in that game-changing sixth inning.
⬛ Top Managers:
Buena’s Ana Nicolo, Kate Albertson, Chelsy Seelman, Bree Cerione
and Jena Leonardo — Whether it was calling in scores or reporting stats, this quintet of managers was instrumental in keeping things running smoothly for the Chiefs this year, a trademark of Buena baseball managers. Nicolo, Albertson and Seelman are all set to graduate later this month.