The Cedar Creek High School baseball team lost its season opener 2-1 in nine innings to Middle Township.

The defeat turned out to be more valuable than a win. Cedar Creek is one of the surprises of the Cape-Atlantic League season. The Pirates (7-2) have won six straight games and are a CAL National Conference contender.

"That loss showed the guys that they can compete," Cedar Creek coach Mike Isgro said. "There was a lot we learned. Who knows if we learn all that by winning that game? It gave us confidence."

The Pirates rely on four seniors - John Newman, Andrew Sibson, Giuseppe Scanga and Mark Whittaker.

"They've been exceptional," Isgro said, "whether it's been at the plate, in the field or in the dugout. They're keeping everybody motivated."

John Newman is batting .515. Juniors Alex Boney and Zach Newman, John's younger brother, are three-year starters. Boney is hitting .516, while Zach is at .430.

The Pirates' two most notable wins have come in a pair of one-run games. They beat Buena Regional 6-5 on April 11 and Sterling 1-0 on Wednesday.

The Buena Regional game lasted 11 innings. John Newman had four hits, and Boney got the win and hit two doubles.

Sibson threw six shutout innings in the 1-0 win over Sterling.

"We're making plays when we need to," Isgro said.

Sterling and Buena Regional are perennial South Jersey Group II contenders. Those victories gave Cedar Creek credibility. The Pirates won the CAL National Conference Division II title. But they are sometimes discounted because that division consists of CAL teams that have traditionally struggled or are rebuilding.

"Everybody says things about our division," Isgro said, "But we've gone out and scheduled some big games. Our guys have taken the mentality of, 'Why can't we win the conference?' "

A look ahead

It's a big week for Ocean City (6-1). The Red Raiders play at Middle Township (3-2) at 4 p.m. Tuesday and at Buena (6-2) at 4 p.m. Thursday. Ocean City and Buena are tied for the CAL National Division I lead.

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