Baseball: Holy Spirit cools off Cumberland Regional

Cumberland Regional’s Mark Sloboda pitches in the first inning against Holy Spirit on Wednesday in Absecon.

ABSECON – Cumberland Regional High School shocked the South Jersey high school baseball community with its upset of perennial power Gloucester Catholic on Tuesday.

The only team more thrilled with the victory than Cumberland was Holy Spirit.

On Wednesday, the Spartans rallied to beat Cumberland 9-5. Spirit players said they came into Wednesday's game extra motivated because of Cumberland's 5-4 win over Gloucester Catholic.

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"Whenever a team beats someone as good as Gloucester Catholic, they're going to be fired up," Spirit catcher Rick Hopkins (2-for-4 with two runs scored and an RBI) said. "If we didn't come fired up, we wouldn't have won."

Spirit (11-4) trailed 3-0 heading to the bottom of the fourth inning. The Spartans scored all of their runs in their final three innings. Rob Boselli and Tyler Dowd each knocked in two runs for Spirit. Spartans pitcher Tyler Kelly struck out five and pitched all seven innings for the win.

Cumberland's win over Gloucester Catholic was the talk of South Jersey baseball Tuesday. Gloucester Catholic is No. 1 in The Press Elite 11 and the defending state Non-Public A champion. USA Today ranks Gloucester Catholic No. 11 in the nation.

"It spread like wildfire," Hopkins said of word about Cumberland's win. "Coaches sent texts. Players were texting. It was all over the place."

But Spirit was probably the worst team for Cumberland to play the day after the momentous upset.

The Spartans are familiar with Cumberland. Spirit scrimmaged the Colts in the preseason and beat Cumberland 5-4 on April 13 in a tournament at Pennsville.

"We knew their lineup," Kelly said. "We knew what they could do and what they couldn't do. We knew their strengths and weaknesses and we just fed off of that."

Spirit also knows what its like to play after an upset. The Spartans beat St. Augustine Prep, then No. 1 in the Elite 11, 11-9 on April 11.

"It's a tough situation for (Cumberland), and we're hoping to catch them a little off guard," Spirit coach Bob Soifer said. "

Initially, Cumberland (10-3) seemed poised Wednesday to build on the Gloucester Catholic upset.

Colts pitcher Mark Sloboda did not allow a base runner in the first three innings. The Colts took a 3-0 lead in the top of the fourth inning on consecutive RBI singles by Ryan Hunsberger, Sean Burks and Ryan Davis.

But Spirit took control with six runs in the bottom of the fourth. The Spartans sent 11 batters to the plate in the inning. Boselli knocked in two runs with a single, while Dowd knocked in two with a double.

"We just had to be patient and get our pitches to hit," Hopkins said. "That was huge (to score six runs in the fourth). It was a huge momentum change for us. If we didn't get those runs, we would have had to battle back later in the game."

Kelly made sure the lead held up. He allowed five hits in the final three innings but only two runs.

"I don't have overpowering stuff," Kelly said. "I do like to work the corners. I was just changing speeds, changing eye levels."

The victory is another notable win for the Spartans as they build toward the state Non-Public A playoffs, which start May 20.

"We're in a great place," Hopkins said. "We're going to keep pushing and playing solid baseball."

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