WASHINGTON TWP. – When his at-bat started, Kevin Welsh just needed to get down a bunt.
It ended with the junior dusting himself off at third base.
After Alex Popovich walked and moved to second on a wild pitch, it was up to Welsh to move him over one more base. With two strikes after failing to get down a bunt, he lifted a liner just inside the right-field line that went for a triple.
The run-producing hit gave the Northern Burlington High School baseball team a one-run lead in the top of the ninth inning Saturday. Bret Parlante would add an RBI single three batters later and the Greyhounds held off Haddonfield for a 6-4 victory in the quarterfinals of the 42nd annual Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic at Washington Township High School.
“I knew I had to put the ball in play,” said Welsh, who went 2-for-4 with two runs scored. “I was real upset after not getting the bunt down and moving the runner over. I just tried to stay confident at the plate.
“I was thinking triple out of the box. As soon as I saw it, I knew I had to get the third.”
Said coach Rick Doppler: “I trust his hands. I was thinking he could get a hit to the right side.”
Northern Burlington (22-3), No. 3 in the Courier-Post Top 15, will take on No. 6 Eastern in a semifinal Sunday at Deptford High School. The winner advances to the title game, which will be played at Eastern beginning at 5 p.m.
After No. 7 Haddonfield (21-3) rallied to take a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the sixth, the Greyhounds forced extra innings when Welsh scored on Zack Wright’s second sacrifice fly of the day with two outs in the seventh.
Wright finished 2-for-2 with two RBIs, while Tyler O’Dell and Adam Rapp also had two hits. Mike Cottrell picked up the win with four innings of relief.
“This is a big win for us,” said Cottrell. “The Diamond Classic is the most prestigious tournament in South Jersey.
“This just shows that we are resilient and will never go down without a fight.”
Trailing 3-1, Haddonfield went ahead with three runs on three hits and an error in the sixth. Tommy Kadar cut the deficit to 3-2 with an RBI fielder’s choice, while Joey Loperfido’s two-run double gave the Bulldawgs their first lead.
But in extra innings, they couldn’t put anything together against Cottrell.
“I knew I had to get the ball over the plate,” Cottrell said. “If they hit the ball, I knew my teammates would be behind me.”
Doppler knew his team would be up for whatever Haddonfield had to offer.
“These kids want to be challenged,” he said. “Their expectations are a lot higher than mine. All they want to do is win and play. That’s what the game is all about.”
Said Welsh: “This team is always focused. We’re in every game right until the end. This is our third time in the Diamond Classic and we would like to keep it going.”
Kevin Minnick; (856) 486-2432; firstname.lastname@example.org
N. BURLINGTON 6
• Player of the game: Kevin Welsh, who drove in the game-winning run with a triple in the ninth inning.
• Play of the game: Welsh’s game-winning hit.
• Well said: “It was a great team effort. It was a game won by playing good team baseball.” – Northern Burlington coach Rick Doppler.