BUENA VISTA TOWNSHIP – Zach Warren reacted with surprise and determination when he heard the unexpected news that he would be St. Augustine Prep’s starting pitcher against Hammonton on Wednesday.
The junior left hander made the most of the opportunity.
Warren struck out nine and allowed four hits in six innings as the Hermits beat Hammonton 3-2 in a matchup of undefeated Cape-Atlantic League American Conference teams. Barry Buchowksi hit a solo home run for St. Augustine.
The Hermits (4-0) feature one of the region’s deepest pitching staffs. Warren is the least known of St. Augustine’s top pitchers. Hermits pitchers Chris Oakley and Joe Gatto both have committed to attend North Carolina on scholarships. Oakley is a Major League prospect.
But St. Augustine coach Mike Bylone told Warren last week that he would make his season debut against Hammonton.
Oakley pitched Tuesday getting the win in St. Augustine’s 8-2 victory over Clearview. Gatto will start today vs. Holy Spirit.
St. Augustine vs. Hammonton was one of the most anticipated games of the young season. St. Augustine is No. 1 in The Press Elite 11. Hammonton (4-1) is No. 10. Hammonton started pitcher Justin Smith, who was 10-1 last season.
Both Warren and Smith struggled early. The teams combined for eight hits and three runs in the first two innings.
Warren settled down, allowing just one hit and two base runners in his final four innings.
Meanwhile, Smith pitched in and out of constant trouble.
He gave up 10 hits but only three runs. St. Augustine left runners at third base in each of the first four innings.
St. Augustine took a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the fifth inning when Buchowski lined a home run to left field.
As if the Hermits didn’t have enough pitching, reliever Mike Elfreth pitched a scoreless seventh inning to preserve the win.