BROOKLAWN – Chris Oakley didn’t overpower the hitters of the Gloucester Catholic High School baseball team with his fastball this afternoon.
The St. Augustine Prep senior didn’t fool them his curveball.
Oakley simply pitched his way to a win he and his team needed.
The Egg Harbor Township resident threw all eight innings as St. Augustine beat the Rams 4-2 in a matchup of two of South Jersey’s top programs. Nick Enos scored the winning run after leading off the top of the eighth with a single.
Oakley threw 116 pitches and allowed three hits in eight innings. He struck out five and walked four.
The 6-foot-8 Oakley has committed to attend North Carolina on a scholarship. He is also considered a Major League draft prospect. He is 7-1 but lost his last start to Millville. The Thunderbolts led 6-0 after two innings and held on to win 6-4 on May 9.
The Hermits also needed a confidence boost. They entered Friday 2-2 in their last four games.
The game matched two perennial powers seeking to build momentum before the state tournament begins next week. The two schools scheduled Friday’s game after they both lost in the first round of the prestigious Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic last weekend.
Gloucester Catholic has won a New Jersey record 16 state titles, including three straight. The Rams (21-5) are the top seed in this year’s South Jersey Non-Public A bracket and No. 4 in The Press Elite 11. St. Augustine (16-6) is the No. 2 seed in South Jersey Non-Public A and No. 6 in The Elite 11.
Gloucester Catholic beat St. Augustine 12-4 in last year’s South Jersey Non-Public A final.
The game had a playoff atmosphere. Enthusiastic fans circled the field, located just off Route 130. Major League scouts sat behind the backstop measuring the speed of Oakley’s pitches with radar guns.
The Rams bench is loud. They get louder when a runner gets on base.
The game went to extra innings tied at two (high school games last seven innings).
As Enos prepared to leadoff the top of the eighth, he discussed his upcoming at-bat with Bylone. The coach wanted him to take a strike.
Enos singled. Joe Gatto (2-for-4) then lined a single to center field.
The Gloucester Catholic outfielder bobbled the ball. Enos sprinted around third and scored to give the Hermits a 3-2 lead.
Two batters later, Mike Elfreth (1-for-3 with two RBIs) singled home Gatto to give the Hermits a two-run lead.
St. Augustine warmed up a reliever in the top of the eighth but there was never any doubt Oakley would pitch the bottom of the eighth.
He struck out the leadoff hitter swinging and then got the next two batters to bounce out to second base. Oakley retired the last seven hitters he faced.