With every visit to Sharks Park, the St. James baseball team is reminded of four goals set prior to the season – the mission of winning Region VII-AAA, district and Lower State championships, along with the ultimate goal of a state title.
Already having the first of those in tow, the Sharks set about to accomplish the second on Friday night, hosting Hanahan with the District VII-AAA title hanging in the balance.
St. James knocked down the second of those with ease, thoroughly beating the Hawks 7-1 to advance to the Lower State AAA baseball tournament. The Sharks will open by hosting Airport on Monday night.
“It’s exciting, it’s been a long time since we’ve been back (to the Lower State tournament),” said St. James baseball coach Robbie Centracchio. “These guys have done it all season long, through the highs and the lows. We’ve had great pitching, good defense and we got some quality at-bats today that were on the money.”
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As has been the key all season long, pitching led the way for the Sharks, getting a solid performance on the mound courtesy of Anthony Peck.
The sophomore hurler went the distance, allowing a single run on seven hits. He also struck out four Hanahan batters while walking only one.
“I know our defense has been good all season behind me, I just wanted them put it in play and let my teammates work behind me,” Peck said. “Our pitchers have done a good job of getting ahead, throwing strikes and picking up wins when we needed them.”
That formula was on full display in the opening inning, as Peck worked his way out of a jam to keep the Hawks off the scoreboard. With runners on first and second with one out, he forced a harmless pop-up to third baseman Grayson Stoneking followed by a strikeout.
He pounded the zone, changed speeds well, he made big pitches when we need to, he’s done it for us all year. For him to be a sophomore and do that is huge.
St. James baseball coach Robbie Centracchio on sophomore pitcher Anthony Peck’s effort in District VII-AAA final
In the bottom half of the frame, it was Liam Bloom offering the team a boost. The senior outfielder’s two-out double jump-starting what turned into a three-run first inning for the Sharks.
Taking on a flamethrower the like of Hanahan’s Malcolm Van Buren – an N.C. State signee – Bloom’s hit not only helped St. James put a dent in the scoreboard, it also put a hint of doubt in the mind of the Hawks pitcher.
“If you can rattle a pitcher of that caliber and can throw that hard, that’s really the key against him,” he said.
Bloom would finish 2-for-3 with two RBIs and a pair of runs scored.
The Sharks’ three runs in the first would prove to be more than enough for Peck, whose only blemish on the night came on a flare by Van Buren to right field that fell between three St. James players, allowing Hanahan’s lone run to score.
“He pounded the zone, changed speeds well, he made big pitches when we needed him to, he’s done it for us all year,” Centracchio said. “For him to be a sophomore and do that is huge.”
While certainly in a celebratory mood, the Sharks also understood the job was far from done. With each step up the ladder, competition gets more difficult, putting more emphasis on each pitch and at bat.
According to the St. James skipper, it will take performances like the one his team had on Friday for the Sharks to continue their roll.
“We need effort like tonight, we know that’s what we’re capable of, that type of effort and preparation,” Centracchio said.
▪ W: Anthony Peck L: Malcolm Van Buren Top hitters: HHS: Tyler Futrell 2-for-4; Malcolm Van Buren 2-for-3, 2B, RBI. STJ: Jordan Fields 2-for 4, R; Liam Bloom 2-for-3, 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI; Cameron Dean 2-for-4, RBI.
▪ Records: Hanahan 19-10; St. James 19-7.