MAYS LANDING - Jarred Corniell was one pitch away.
The Buena Regional High School senior leader found himself in a tough spot with the 21st annual Al Hedelt Tournament title on the line Saturday.
Corniell harmlessly retired back-to-back batters with the bases loaded in a tie game in the bottom of the seventh inning, before giving up a game-winning single to Pennsville Memorial's Josh Shimp.
Pennsville beat Buena 5-4.
Buena, The No. 10 team in The Press Elite 11, earned its spot in the final with a 9-2 win against Holy Spirit in the semifinal. Pennsville beat host Oakcrest 4-0 in the other semifinal.
The backbreaker in the championship game was a grand slam off the bat of Pennsville's Eric Lankenau in the fourth inning.
With Buena ahead 3-0, Lankenau went first-pitch swinging and drove a towering home run to left center field to give Pennsville the lead.
"We're gritty," Buena first-year coach Harry Grose said. "We don't give up. We got ahead three. They hit the grand slam and you thought they won the whole thing.
"But we came back. I'm not disappointed. It's tough to win a doubleheader no matter who you're playing. This just gets you better."
Buena's Denny Brady tied the game up in the fifth when his two-out flare landed in no-man's land in shallow right field.
Brady finished the game with three of the team's four RBIs.
Buena's Nick Caregnato pitched well in 3 innings in relief of starter Ian Bertucci but was pulled from the game after giving up a leadoff double in the seventh.
Corniell, who caught all seven innings in the team's semifinal and the first six in the final, entered looking to send the game to extra innings.
"(Coach) trusts me in that spot," Corniell said. "My job, my objective, was to just get in there and pound the strike zone.
"I'm not going to lie, it was a little nerve-racking, but I went in there and trusted my catcher, trusted my defense and did what I had to do."
A fielding miscue on a bunt and a single loaded the bases with nobody out.
But Corniell struck out Lankenau and got the next batter to pop out in the infield for the second out.
But Shimp ripped a ground ball past a diving Andrew Cartier at second base to drive in the game-winner.
"I knew they were going to be tough," Pennsville coach Matt O'Brien said. "I watched them the game before against Holy Spirit. They're fast, they're athletic, they swing the bats, they throw and get good defense.
"They are an awesome program. They battled us the whole time. It was a good win for us."
Brady finished 2-for-3 with a double and three RBIs. Dom Lopez went 2-for-3 with a double.
Buena doesn't get much time to rest.
The Chiefs (12-2) have a showdown with Vineland in the Millville Coaches vs. Cancer Tournament today at 11 a.m. followed by games on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday this week.
"We love to play the game," Corniell said.
Contact John O'Kane:
Buena Regional 012 010 0-4 8 4
Pennsville Memorial 004 000 1-5 7 2
2B-Pace, Lopez BR; Bell PM. HR-Lankenau PM.
WP-Burdsall (1-0) 3k; LP-Caregnato (0-1) 1k.
Records-Buena 12-2; Pennsville 11-3.
Pennsville Memorial 4,
Pennsville's Drew Bursdall went 3-for-4, including a double and a stolen base.
Oakcrest's Cameron Lease was 2-for-3, including a double.
Pennsville 003 000 1-4 8 0
Oakcrest 000 000 0-0 5 0
2B-Bursdall, Moore P; Lease O.
WP-Westfield 6k, 3w. LP-Thompson 2k, 2w.
No. 10 Buena Regional 9,
Holy Spirit 2
Marco Rios doubled twice and scored two runs to lead Buena. Jarred Corniell got his 100th career hit with an RBI single.
For Holy Spirit, Ryan Solari was 2-for-4, including a double.
Buena Regional 012 050 1-9 8 3
Holy Spirit 000 000 2-2 7 5
2B-Rios (2), Luisi BR; Hopkins, Solari HS.
WP-Capriotti (5-0) 4k. LP-White 3k.
Records-Buena 10-1; Spirit 9-4.