The St. Augustine Prep baseball team will play a game today it knew was inevitable.
The Hermits (22-6) will meet Gloucester Catholic (27-5) for the South Jersey Non-Public A title at 4 p.m. at Overbrook High School in Pine Hill, Camden County. The winner advances to Saturday's state final against the winner of Tuesday's North Jersey title game between Seton Hall Prep and St. Joseph Montvale.
St. Augustine coach Mike Bylone told the Hermits at their preseason meeting that they would probably meet Gloucester Catholic in the playoffs.
"We said, 'If you want to get to a state final, you have to go through Gloucester Catholic,'" he said. "The stars have aligned, and here we are."
Gloucester Catholic is arguably the state's best program. The Rams are the defending state Non-Public A champion and have won a New Jersey-best 16 state titles, including three in a row.
The Rams are the top seed and ranked No. 3 in The Press Elite 11. The Hermits are the No. 2 seed and ranked No. 2.
St. Augustine beat Gloucester Catholic 5-2 in a regular-season game May 17.
"It was an emotional win for us," Bylone said. "It tells the kids we can beat them. We haven't had a lot of success against them.
Gloucester Catholic beat St. Augustine 12-4 in last year's South Jersey final. St. Augustine won the state Non-Public A title in 2011 but lost to Gloucester Catholic 13-3 during that regular season. The Rams won the state Non-Public B champ-
ionship that year.
St. Augustine has won nine straight games. The Hermits haven't lost since dropping two straight, 6-4 to Millville on May 9 and 10-4 to Eastern on May 11.
"We kind of muddled through the regular season a bit," Bylone said. "We talked at practice (after the Eastern loss). The kids have played with a sense of urgency since then."
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