|High School Baseball:
Triton Makes Incredible Late Season Run to Qualify for State Tournament
Tuesday, May 13, 2003
By Bob Wankel
Mark this story in the "are you kidding me?" section. Call the 2003 edition of Triton baseball team the comeback kids, call them streaky, call them whatever you want, but call them qualifiers for the baseball state tournament.
The Mustangs entered the 2003 campaign with their sights set on a conference crown, and a place amongst the South Jersey elite. However, great expectations soon turned into all the makings of a nightmare season for Triton. Despite having quality pitching and offensive talent across the board, the Mustangs struggled to put together a quality performance in all aspects of the game in the early going. Triton, after a quick start last season, slowly tapered off as the season progressed, however this season has been just the opposite. The Mustangs stumbled out of the gate, facing off against the likes of perennial powerhouses Sterling, Gloucester Catholic, Washington Twp., Lenape, Cherokee, and other ranked schools. The season's low point came on April 28th, when the Mustangs lost to eventual conference champion Cherry Hill West 8-0 in what was seemingly a do or die game for the group. Triton dropped to 3-8 and their playoff aspirations were all but gone. However, whether it was a speech, a particular practice, whatever it may have been, something miraculous happened on April 28th after that loss, because the Mustangs have galloped right back into the thick of things. Triton, from April 30th-May 12th, has reeled off six straight wins and has come back from oblivion to be one of the most feared teams in South Jersey, if not the hottest.
So where did this turn around come from? Well, it is really quite simple. Defense. The Mustangs were making critical errors that cost the team dearly in crucial situations during the beginning of the year. Along with their defensive struggles, throw in the fact that during their first eleven games, eight of them came against ranked opponents, including a 0-2 record in one run games. The pitching has been spectacular at times, but lackluster at others. The offense has been there all along, but with Triton keeping crooked numbers off the scoreboard, the team is really warming up, and just in the knick of time.
The team's most vocal leader is also setting an example on the field of play. Infielder/Pitcher, Ryan Patterson is hitting well over .500 for the season and has four homers, after going homerless last year. Along with his clutch hitting, Patterson has also given Triton some much needed quality innings on the mound. Along with Patterson, fellow highly touted senior, Brian McLaughlin has continued to be a driving force for the Mustangs. McLaughlin has been outstanding at the plate, and has shaken off early season struggles on the mound and is now in top form as Triton heads for the stretch run. McLaughlin tossed a one-hit shutout gem for Triton during an 8-0 win in a do or die game against Winslow Twp. on the last day before the tournament cutoff. A game in which the winner qualified for the state tournament and the loser looked forward to next year. Lost in the All-South Jersey if not All-State play of the two seniors is sophomore Greg Mortka. He has perhaps been the most consistent this season on the pitching staff, and deserves much credit, as do the other players of this team.
The Mustangs have a tough road ahead of them as they still play at least three more regular season games against ranked opponents, excluding the playoffs. The Mustangs now know that you just don't walk on the field and win, no matter what the talent is. With that said, they have found their formula for success and the hottest team in South Jersey is now poised to do some serious damage in the state tournament.
|©2003 South Jersey Sports Online Inc.