Andrew Biggs' love of baseball came from his grandmother Helen Biggs.
Biggs lived with her growing up. She played catch with him in the backyard. She gave him his first glove and his first bat.
"If it wasn't for her, baseball might not have been the thing for me," Biggs said.
Biggs concentrated solely on the sport growing up.
"I stuck with one sport and said, 'I'm going to put all my love and dedication into (baseball) and take it as far as I can,' " Biggs said.
The Millville High School senior's approach worked. He is The Press Player of the Year.
A dominant pitcher, Biggs was 6-3 with a 0.58 ERA. He struck out 109 in 60 innings. Biggs also batted .324.
Biggs kept hitters off-balance with his velocity and a bit of a hesitation in his delivery.
Millville coach Roy Hallenbeck said Biggs was at his best when Millville needed him the most.
"I've never seen him intimidated or scared of the moment," Hallenbeck said. "The higher the stakes the tougher he got. That's a rare commodity in kids these days."
Nowhere was that better seen than in Biggs' signature performance of the season. It came on May 12 in the Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic against Gloucester Catholic, which later won the state Non-Public A title. Gloucester Catholic is considered the state's No. 1 team with numerous Division I hitters in the lineup.
Biggs struck out 13 and threw a three-hit shutout in Millville's 4-0 victory.
Hallenbeck said Biggs' demeanor during the contest was no different than it would be in an intrasquad game or a 6 a.m. preseason bullpen session.
"That's the highlight of my career for high school baseball," Biggs said. "Throughout the game I felt as though I had great stuff. It was a great pitching experience. It made me feel tremendous at the end of the day."
Biggs will continue his career on a Division I scholarship at Delaware State University - a program on the rise. The Hornets finished 40-17-1 this season, their most wins in 10 years.
"I can't wait to be a part of that program," Biggs said. "It doesn't matter if I'm a freshman or a senior. I'm a guy who tries to show leadership and that's the way I'm going to approach the game of college."
Helen Biggs died last July. While Biggs was growing up, she attended just about every game he played, as well as almost all practices.
"She was at the field from daytime until the lights went off," Biggs said. 'She wouldn't miss a heartbeat of baseball for me."
He still draws inspiration from Helen. Biggs acknowledges her before every game he pitches. He makes the sign of the cross on the mound and then looks to the sky before throwing his first pitch.
"I thank her all the time for putting me in this sport," he said.
St. Augustine Prep started the season 5-5.
The Hermits finished the season as one southern New Jersey's best. They finished No. 3 in The Press Elite 11 - the highest ranking of any local team.
The Hermits (19-10) reached the South Jersey Non-Public A final, losing to eventual champion Gloucester Catholic 12-4. St. Augustine also reached the semifinals of the Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic.
"As a coach, you never want to lose that last game," Bylone said, "But when you look back I'm really proud of how we competed. We made it to the South Jersey title game and the goal is to make that game."
Coach George West led Buena Regional to where it had never been before.
Buena won the South Jersey Group II title for the second time in school history. The Chiefs reached the state final for the first time in school history. Mahwah beat Buena 11-4 in the state title game.
West is The Press Coach of the Year.
"Coach West emphasizes the fundamentals," Buena catcher Manny Colon said. "He's fun but when things get serious he knows to knuckle down. All he asks is that you come out and play hard every day."
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