A grounder up the middle that seemed destined to be a double play ball deflected off the pitcher’s foot and into the outfield resulting in a tide-turning two runs that proved to be the South Brunswick High School baseball team’s demise in Thursday’s 4-3 loss to Edison.
The second-inning play essentially serves as a microcosm of the season for the young Vikings, who fell to 2-7 after dropping their second one-run loss.
Illustrating how close South Brunswick is to being above .500, consider that all seven of the team’s defeats have been by a total of 17 runs or by an average of 2.43 runs.
The Vikings’ two victories have also been nail-biters including a 4-3 season-opening win over Perth Amboy and a 13-11 slugfest over J.P. Stevens (they squandered leads of 5-0 and 7-2 in an 8-7 loss to the Panthers).
“We’ve been saying for the last few games, we almost feel like we just need one break, one ball to bounce our way to get things moving in the right direction and then things will start to roll,” South Brunswick coach Tim Sweeney said.
“Our hope early on was to start slow and with some experience build up and win some games, but right now it’s not happening. Obviously, there’s some frustration when you are not winning games. We practice and work as hard as anybody. It’s not paying off in games. But as a group they are staying together and remaining positive.”
The Vikings – who returned just five of 161 hits – graduated their entire 2013 starting lineup, as well as 104 innings pitched.
South Brunswick has graduated at least 10 seniors each of the past three years including 12 departures each of the last two seasons.
Despite sustaining those significant losses, the Vikings always had rising seniors waiting in the wings, resulting in a 16-7 record in 2013 and a 15-9 mark last spring.
This year’s squad features just seven upperclassmen, only four of which are full-time starters.
Over the past six years, Sweeney has started a total of three sophomores. He’s already exceeded that number this season, using four sophomores including a backup shortstop who has replaced sophomore Ryan Moran, who broke his hand in a loss to Piscataway earlier this week.
“The last few games we’ve been focusing on trying to compete every inning and every pitch,” Sweeney said. “Their attitude really hasn’t changed. They are still working as hard as they can.”
South Brunswick is batting just .244 as a team with four hitters essentially carrying the club offensively including Kevin Kessler (.370), Andrew Avots (.310) and Garret Byrne (.304).
Brandon Siroki is among the Greater Middlesex Conference’s leading hitters, batting .414 with 12 hits (four for extra-bases), 10 RBI and the team’s lone homer.
The Vikings endured a stretch of 22 scoreless innings during which the pitching staff kept South Brunswick in contests, allowing a total of 10 runs during the three-game stretch.
— Greg Tufaro (@GregTufaro) April 17, 2015
“They have a great attitude,” said Edison head coach Vinnie Abene, noting Sweeney liberally substituted in Thursday’s game, using a total of 15 players according to the box score, without creating any dissension among his charges.
“They all seemed very gracious (for the playing time) and hustled. Later he re-entered a lot (of players). If nothing else, he is building a lot of team character over there. They are no ‘gimme.’ They are fundamentally sound.
“If they are young, they are obviously a team to look out for in the future.”