Starter Greg Egan and clutch hitting power St. John the Baptist to CHSAA title
Greg Egan knows the feeling that follows his team's final game of a season -- that crushing pain and an unforgiving weight on his shoulders.
It happened again to the St. John the Baptist senior Monday.
Slight difference this time.
"It was a good pain," he said. "It hurt a little, but when you're that excited, it doesn't matter."
Certainly not, when celebrating a championship, and the only pressure felt at that moment comes from teammates diving onto a pile you're beneath on the mound at Farmingdale State.
Egan fanned eight in a complete game, leading the third-seeded Cougars to a 5-1 win over St. Dominic to capture their first CHSAA baseball title since 2008.
St. John the Baptist (21-6) took the first game Sunday and completed a two-game sweep of the top-seeded Bayhawks Monday.
"We had great teams the past two years but we came up short," Egan said, referring to the Cougars falling in the semifinals the previous two seasons. "With 14 seniors, we knew this would be the year. It had to be."
It was, on the strength of a three-run fifth inning. Chris Gaffney hit a tailing line drive to right-centerfield that was just beyond the outfielder's reach and rolled to the wall for a triple. Brian McLaughlin followed with a bullet to the left-center gap that also went for a triple and gave the Cougars a 2-1 lead.
"Me and 'Gaff' are great friends and coming through in a championship game is something we've dreamed of for the longest," McLaughlin said. "We were really confident at that point."
St. Dominic's Kieran Ryan was relieved by Brady Renner with one out in that inning. But Kyle Collins walked and stole second, setting up Chris Lemorocco's two-run single. Gaffney's RBI single in the sixth made it 5-1.
That was plenty for Egan, who was named CHSAA pitcher of the year. The righthander admittedly struggled with fastball command -- four hits and five walks -- but compensated with a changeup and sharp slider.
"This is the culmination of what he talked about in January, wanting to be a horse and being able to throw 120 pitches," SJB coach John Habyan said of Egan. "He was right around there, but he came up big and finished."
Egan ended the game with a strikeout on a slider off the outside corner.
Collins, who received game MVP honors, was 2-for-2 with the walk and two stolen bases. His RBI single in the first gave the Cougars a 1-0 lead before Jack Zagaja's single tied it in the third for St. Dominic (17-8).
St. John the Baptist lost two of three to the Bayhawks in the regular season, but junior Frank DeMaio stunned in his first varsity start Sunday, pitching a two-hitter for the Cougars in a 3-1 win in Game 1.
"Knowing that we won [Sunday] and had a chance to get the championship in this game got everyone pumped and focused coming in," Gaffney said. "We got exactly what we wanted and we're right where we want to be."
And for a minute, that was in a heap atop their ace.