VOORHEES - Saturday's first-round Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic game between St. Augustine Prep and Eastern could just have easily been the final.
The Hermits are No. 3 in The Press Elite 11, the Vikings No. 4.
Each team was considered to be among the favorites to win the prestigious 16-team invitational tournament.
Weather turned the contest into a home game at the last second for Eastern and the Vikings took full advantage, beating the Hermits 10-4 to advance to Saturday's quarterfinal against defending champ Bishop Eustace.
The game was originally scheduled to be played at neutral site Washington Township High School but that field was unplayable, so the game was moved to Eastern's turf field.
The Hermits refused to use that as an excuse.
"They are tough whether we play them in the parking lot or we play them on their field," Bylone said. "I told the team yesterday, 'Don't bring you're A-game, bring you're A-plus game'."
Eastern scored runs in five of six innings and had a runner reach third base in every single inning.
The Vikings gave St. Augustine Prep's Zach Warren (4-1) his first loss of the season.
"They are an outstanding baseball team," Eastern coach Rob Christ said. "We knew we were going to see some outstanding pitching, but we're fortunate in a way. We play in such a tough conference that we face tough pitching each and every day.
"That is an excellent baseball team. It's a shame we didn't play them in the finals as opposed to the first round."
Eastern took advantage of some sloppy play by the Prep. The Vikings scored three of their first six runs on wild pitches with a two-run throwing error in between.
"We didn't do enough to deserve to win this thing," Bylone said. "They deserved to win."
The Hermits (13-6) showed signs of life in the third.
Tulane University-bound catcher Barry Buchowski followed up an RBI single by Mike Elfreth with an RBI double off the base of the wall in left.
The Prep trailed 3-2 but would get no closer.
Eastern scored two in the fourth and then three in the fifth to chase Warren from the game.
Tom Flacco finished off the scoring with a two-run home run off Prep reliever Joe Gatto in the sixth.
"We showed a little momentum later in the game and thought we were going to come back, but it didn't click and we're stuck with a loss to a very good team," Buchowski said. "We thought depending on who won this game really was going to be a big factor in who was going to win this side of the bracket and go into the final. They beat us on a better day and we go home losers."
Buchowski went 1-for-3 with two RBIs and a walk. Cody Sadreameli was hit by a pitch twice, stole a base and scored a run. Nick Enos went 1-for-2 with an RBI and a run scored.
Eastern starter Alex Bussison struck out three and scattered six hits in the complete-game win. Jake Quinn went 2-for-2 with a walk, an RBI double and three runs scored.
The Hermits would have liked to make a run at a Diamond title but will now shift focus to the upcoming state tournament.
"We just have to get back to work on Monday," Bylone said. "We have two weeks left to try and get on some sort of a roll here going into the state playoffs."
Contact John O’Kane:
St. Augustine Prep 002 011 0-4 6 1
Eastern 120 232 x-10 6 0
2B-Buchowski SA; Quinn ER. HR-Flacco ER.
WP-Bussison 3k; LP-Warren (4-1) 5k.
Records-St. Augustine 13-6; Eastern 19-2.
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