LAKEWOOD – According to St. John Vianney baseball coach Mike Morgan, his 2014 Non-Public A State Championship team never had a chance to properly celebrate its first title of the sort since 1981.
“We had a bunch of kids graduate right after the run and we already had our banquet,” Morgan said. “So it’s great to get everyone back together in one place, to relive what this team accomplished, and finally talk and enjoy that moment.”
On Wednesday at FirstEnergy Park, Morgan and his 2014 Lancers club finally had their moment, becoming the second inductee in the BlueClaws Ring of Honor, the latest initiative of the Phillies’ South Atlantic League affiliate, which aims to celebrate the many championship athletes and programs of the Shore Conference.
“This induction means a lot,” former St. John Vianney catcher and current Rutgers University backstop Anthony Santoro said. “We worked hard all year to get to that point, and we were underdogs the entire state tournament. To see it all pay off and to be honored like this, it’s a great feeling.”
In a word, St. John Vianney’s run to the 2014 crown was “improbable.”
To earn the title, the eighth-seeded Lancers needed to go through ninth-seeded Notre Dame (a 13-3 dismissal), top-seeded Bishop Eustace (a 10-0 rout) and fourth-seeded CBA (a 13-9 win), before traveling to second-seeded Gloucester Catholic (a 3-2 victory over a team gunning for its fifth straight state title), and toppling Non-Public North A sectional champion St. Joseph-Montvale 3-1
“Seeing where we started last year, it was pretty crazy to end up as one of the best teams in the state, and the country,” said former Lancers ace Justin Chin, who led St. John Vianney to the title with consecutive victories over Bishop Eustace, Gloucester Catholic, and St. Joseph’s Montvale, before continuing his career at the NCAA level with New Jersey Institute of Technology.
“It was pretty incredible that we went on that run, and honestly, I wasn’t sure we, or any other team, were capable of doing something like that,” added Chin, who pitched to a 10-0 record with a 1.46 ERA in 2014. “It was a great time, and so is celebrating it tonight with the guys in the Lakewood.”
Morgan, who recently completed his ninth year with St. John Vianney in 2015, was named the Shore Conference Coach of the Season after his team’s championship triumph, and was thrilled to finally be able to revel in the moment with his past and present players.
“It’s awesome that we’re all back together for this night. It’s awesome that the BlueClaws thought enough of us to put us in this ring of honor. It’s an incredible honor for our program and for the kids. They accomplished something really special, and they deserve to be celebrated like this.”
St. John Vianney’s 2014 club is the second addition to the BlueClaws Ring of Honor, joining Tyree Sutton, who was inducted in May after becoming Keansburg’s first state championship wrestler this past winter.
However, the Lancers won’t be the last.
With the success of the past two events, the BlueClaws plan to continue its Ring of Honor initiative with several more induction ceremonies in the works for later this summer and beyond, including Sunday, July 12 when Lakewood will celebrate Brick Memorial’s 2014 Group V state championship wrestling team.
Claws top Hickory in opener: A four run bottom of the sixth for the BlueClaws was capped by a two-run double off the bat of Drew Stankiewicz, who knocked in Emmanuel Marrero and Scott Kingery, leading to an eventual 6-3 over the Hickory Crawdads in the first meeting of a five-game series.
Stankiewicz, an 11th round draft pick by the Phillies in 2014, finished 3-for-4 in the game with a triple and a walk, and has hit safely in five of his last six games with the BlueClaws since being transferred to Lakewood on June 26.
Lakewood took an early lead with a run in the second, as Herlis Rodriguez led off the inning with a double, before moving to third on an error, and scoring on sacrifice fly by Cord Sandberg.
Hickory knotted the game in its half of the third, but Lakewood regained the lead in the fourth when Deivi Grullon delivered a two-out RBI single up the middle to plate Damek Tomscha.
BlueClaws starter Ranfi Casimiro (4-5, 3.36) earned the victory after allowing one run on six hits and three walks, while striking out one.
Scott Harris entered out of the Lakewood bullpen in the seventh and surrendered a two-run home run to Luke Tendler in the top of the eighth.
Lakewood lefty Joey DeNato worked the ninth and earned his fourth save of the season in a hitless inning.
Hickory and the BlueClaws are back at it on Thursday when Lakewood’s Austin Davis (0-2, 2.40) will face Brett Martin (3-3, 2.73) at 7:05 p.m.