TOMS RIVER – After waiting over three decades to play in another state championship game, the Holy Spirit High School baseball team wasted no time scoring first Saturday.
The Spartans sprinted to a three-run lead in the first inning and finished up with five more in the last to win their first state title since 1982 with a 9-4 victory over Newark Academy in the Non-Public B title game at Toms River North High School.
“It’s a great feeling to win it for the first time in 33 years,” said senior Anthony Boselli after delivering two hits and three RBIs.
Holy Spirit started the season 1-7, but the Spartans finished as South Jersey’s lone state champion.
“We made a few mistakes early on in the season, but we are really young,” said senior A.J. Russo.
Holy Spirit (14-16), which started four sophomores, including pitcher Billy Kral, surged with eight wins in its last nine games.
“Our record is below .500, but all that banner will say in the gym is state champions,” said coach Steve Normane.
Newark Academy (19-13) had won six straight. The Minutemen made their fifth state final appearance in the last 12 seasons, but were denied once again by a reborn Holy Spirit squad.
“We dug ourselves a hole, but we climbed out of it,” added Normane, who played his high school ball at Livingston, where Newark Academy is located. “I give all the credit to the players for not giving up.”
The Spartans made their first final appearance since 1984, when they lost to Union Catholic in the Non-Public A championship. Holy Spirit won Non-Public A state crowns in 1980 and 1982.
The Spartans won all five playoff games on the road.
“We got the ring and that’s all that counts,” Boselli said.
Holy Spirit took a 1-0 lead when Boselli singled home senior Tommy Burns, who reached base when hit by a pitch. Boselli scored on a sacrifice fly by senior Chris Lefferts and senior Matt Marczyk scored on an infield error for a 3-0 lead in the top of the first.
Newark Academy got a run back on an RBI double by Mike Gibbons in the bottom of the inning, but that was the last run Kral would allow before giving way in the seventh inning to Jules Massella, also a sophomore.
“I was trying to get ahead on the hitters. My curveball was pretty good,” said Kral after allowing one run on five hits. “As the season progressed, I did better and better. And at the end of the season, I reached my peak.”
In the third, sophomore Tyler Knox doubled and scored on a double by sophomore Nolan Charlton to pad Holy Spirit’s lead to 4-1.
The Spartans added five insurance runs in the top of the seventh. Lefferts singled and scored on an RBI single by Knox, who scored on an infield error. Russo added a sacrifice fly before Boselli cleared the bases with a two-run triple.
“That five spot was huge,” Normane said. “We got some key hits from our seniors and that kind of epitomizes the season.”
Normane and the Spartans might not need to wait 33 years for another state title with four sophomores in the starting lineup due back – Kral, Knox, Spicer and Charlton.
“We want to be back again next year, but we know nothing will be handed to us,” Normane said. “We have to work for it.”
Just like the Spartans did this season.
“Our coaches just kept us positive all year,” Boselli said. “We believed the whole season.”
Kevin Callahan; (856) 486-2424; firstname.lastname@example.org
HOLY SPIRIT 9
NEWARK ACADEMY 4
• Player of the game: Holy Spirit sophomore pitcher Billy Kral allowed just one run on five hits in six innings.
• Play of the game : The Spartans held a 4-1 lead in the bottom of the sixth and Newark Academy had runners on first and second when Kral struck out the Minutemen’s clean-up hitter.
• Well said: “ We feel as a program everything is on the rise.” – Kral said.