By TOM WILLIAMS
They came to see Nick Decker but a lot of them probably left talking about Brandon Lashley.
Ocean City High School’s baseball season came to an end today in front of out-of-town media and many other interested observers when Seneca edged the Raiders, 4-1, in eight innings.
Andrew Bristol’s team finished the season 16-5. Seneca (17-5) will host the South Jersey Group 3 semifinal against Mainland on Tuesday. The Mustangs (15-5) surprised Triton, 3-1, today.
But there was some good news for the Raiders.
They are the champions of the Cape-Atlantic League’s National Conference, their third straight CAL title and fourth in six years.
That happened because four other CAL schools – Absegami, Cedar Creek, Mainland and Oakcrest – declined to complete their conference schedules in violation of Cape-Atlantic League Rule XVII – “All Cape-Atlantic League contests must be made up on the first school date when both teams are not scheduled.”
Absegami is one game behind the Raiders in the National Conference standings with a game left against Mainland. The Raiders have games un-played with Oakcrest and Cedar Creek. If Absegami lost or Ocean City won either of its games, OCHS would win the conference. Apparently the decision makers at those four schools felt it was such a longshot that the Raiders would not win the championships that they decided not to finish the season.
A questionable decision – depriving student-athletes of competitions – but, hopefully, not one that future teams in all sports can use as a precedent.
Anyway, the Raiders are baseball champions again. Congratulations to them even though they did not get to complete their schedule.
Now, about Lashley.
The junior right-hander struck out 16 today, keeping Seneca hitters off balance for seven and one-third innings. At one point he struck out five in a row. He pitched four hitless innings until Seneca led off the fifth with a single. The Golden Eagles got another single in the sixth that drove in the tying run following two walks.
Ocean City had scored in the third inning when Parker Bristol reached base on an error, moved to second and scored on a single to center by Dan Nunan.
The Raiders tried to win it with a walk-off in the seventh after singles by Lashley and Parker Bristol put runners on the corners with one out. Ocean City tried the suicide squeeze but the pitch was missed and Lashley was tagged out between third and home.
In the eighth, Lashley struck out the leadoff batter and gave up a single, the third hit off him in the game. But that put him over the pitch count. He got a no-decision.
Frank Piernikowski came on and walked Decker intentionally. After a runner was out stealing, Seneca loaded the bases with a single and walk. With two outs and the bases loaded, Piernikowski ran the count full to Luke Hoey. Piernikowski then threw four straight strikes, all fouled off by Hoey. Finally, the Seneca senior got a pitch he could hit fair and it split the outfielders in right center for a three-run double.
Ocean City brought the tying run to the plate in the bottom of the eighth. Millstein led off with a single and Issac Robertson drew a one-out walk. But a fly ball to left center and a called third strike ended the threat.
Decker started in center field but pitched the final three innings and got the win, striking out five and allowing four hits. Robertson got a one-out double off him in the sixth but was stranded at second. Decker, committed to Maryland as an outfielder but expected to be selected in the MLB Draft, usually attracts interest when he plays. He is considered the 76th best high school prospect in the country by Baseball America. He didn’t get a chance to do much at the plate today but he showed a great outfield arm and an occasional lack of self-control. Lashley struck him out once and he walked three times, twice intentionally.
Lashley and Dom Monteleone each had two hits in the eight-hit Raider attack.
Follow OCHS spring sports day-by-day at the Raider Sports Diary – http://www.oceancitysports.com/OCDiary.html.