For anyone not around the Cinnaminson High School baseball team in 2016, the Pirates run to the South, Group 2 final might have been a surprise. But, for those familiar with the program, reaching the sectional final was par for the course behind the senior leadership on the club.
The Pirates finished the 2016 campaign at 14-13 overall and 5-3 in the Patriot Division.
“We had a lot of new faces in the lineup this year,” head coach Kevin Merrill said. “There were some ups and downs. At times, the game played a little fast for some, but it’s very hard to play error-free baseball in high school. Errors are going to happen from time to time.”
The appearance in the sectional final was the second in four years, including the 2013 state title, and it was the fourth straight year the Pirates advanced to at least the sectional semifinal round.
“It came down to the senior leadership on the team,” Merrill said. “They would have a team meeting and make it known to the team what was not acceptable and what needed to be done mentally to be prepared for the playoffs. They came out red-hot in the playoffs.”
“The seniors kept us focused on the goals we wanted to achieve. With a relatively young team in terms of varsity playing experience, I thought they did a tremendous job. The run we made in the playoffs was a testament to them.”
The Pirates had quite a few new faces step up this year and make an impact on the varsity squad; including senior Mike Hess, junior Jack Conville, junior Matt Overman, sophomore Jake Perkins and sophomore Mike Graff.
“Jack has a good delivery and an ability to make hitters swing at his pitches,” Merrill said. “He was one of the the great stories of the season as far as someone emerging and stepping up to do a terrific job for us all season long.”
“Matt Overman might be the second biggest surprise of the season behind Jack. He really took over the second base role,” Merrill said.
“There were games where he gave us an offensive spark at the bottom of the lineup. He hit well over .300 for the year and finished close to the top of the team in at-bats. He was a rock defensively and probably our most consistent.”
Cinnaminson started the 2016 season with a 14-5 loss to Northern Burlington. The Pirates first win of the year came via a 10-0 shutout of Patriot rival Bordentown.
The Pirates roared out to a 5-0 start within the Patriot and were poised to win the crown before losing their final three division games of the year against Delran (6-1), Pemberton (12-2) and Holy Cross (16-4).
“The win against Holy Cross was impressive. The Delran win was nice,” Merrill said. “We had some big moments with Rancocas Valley, but the Holy Cross win was one of our most complete team performances of the season.”
“We played terrific defense and Brandon (Staub) threw one of his best games of the season. We got timely hitting when we needed it. They were a good team. They won a state title last week.”
Cinnaminson took part in two prestigious in-season tournaments in the BCSL and the Diamond Classic.
The Pirates fell in the second round of the BCSL Tournament to Holy Cross, 6-3, and fell in the first round of the Diamond Classic to Lenape, 13-5.
After securing the #6 seed in the South, Group 2 Tournament, the Pirates dropped four games in a row heading into the playoffs.
Baseball opened the first round against Sterling, needing two days to take down the Silver Knights due to inclement weather.
The sectional final saw the Pirates come out on the wrong side of a 3-1 loss to eventual Group 2 state champion West Deptford.
“We have a good nucleus coming back that we can build off of,” Merrill said. “I knew there were going to be some games where we would play well together and games where we would be exposed in some areas.”
Tomorrow we will bring you the girl’s track and field 2016 season review.
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