By BRIAN CUNNIFF
CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE – Soon after Monday’s high school baseball game, the Cape May Tech coach used the old adage that momentum is set by the next game’s starting pitcher.
It was never more true for the Hawks.
Three days after enduring a 10-0 shutout loss in six innings to Lower Cape May, Cape May Tech got a brilliant pitching performance from sophomore Tanner Oliva and a walk-off RBI single from senior Tyler McDaniel that highlighted a 2-1 victory over the Caper Tigers.
“They took it to us on Friday,” first-year Tech coach Sam Picketts said. “They did a job on us and we didn’t get it done. But the best momentum can be the next game’s starting pitcher and Tanner pitched a great game for us. He gave us a chance to win and we did just enough down the stretch to pull one out at the end.”
In the home half of the seventh, James Murray led off with a single, followed by a walk to Nick Boehm. Both runners moved up on a wild pitch, putting runners on second and third with no outs. After an infield popup gave Lower Cape May a first out, McDaniel looped a single into right field to send Murray home and allow the Hawks to celebrate.
“One of the things we stress is doing your best to make things happen when you’re at the plate,” Picketts said. “Their pitcher (Evan Shoffler) had a lot of good off-speed stuff. Tyler took the first strike and then he got a similar pitch and he kept himself back and didn’t try to do too much. When the other team has the infield in, sometimes you just have to throw your hands at it and hope it falls somewhere.
“Fortunately, we had a good guy to have up there because Tyler’s been in the program for four years and he’s been in some big games. He was the winning pitcher in the school’s first playoff win (last season), so the moment’s not too big for him.”
The game was scoreless through 5 ½ innings. Tech took a 1-0 lead on Sheldon Marsden’s RBI single that scored McDaniel in the bottom of the sixth.
Lower tied the game in the seventh. After Kody Lewis and John Roach opened the frame with singles and Lewis moved to third on a wild pitch, a balk allowed Lewis to score. Oliva, however, recorded two strikeouts and induced a soft infield popup to prevent further trouble, giving his teammates the chance to win it in their half of the seventh.
Oliva allowed six hits, just one walk and no earned runs and struck out 10.
“We preach to our guys to just try to compete and throw strikes and limit baserunners,” Picketts said. “At the high school level, sometimes plays are going to be made behind you and sometimes they’re not. You just have to be strong and stay within yourself and give the team a chance to compete. Tanner did a great job of that today.”
The win improved Cape May Tech to 9-8. The Hawks are the only Cape May County program south of Ocean City over .500 at this point of the season. This despite losing a couple of players to transfer before the season.
“I can only speak for the guys that we have, obviously,” Picketts said. “They come out every day and work and they’re a great group of kids and they truly like each other. We’ve played some tight games and we’ve played pretty well against some good teams. It’s a testament to our guys. Sometimes you have bumps in the road. You just deal with it and move forward.”
Shoffler, Lewis and Roach each had two hits for Lower.
Marsden went 3 for 3 for the Hawks.