BUENA — Timely hitting and base running by the Buena Regional and Sacred Heart high school baseball teams helped both teams score runs in a game where they each led twice on Tuesday.
Even bigger plays on defense kept the Chiefs and Lions from ever getting more than a one-run lead.
Buena, ranked seventh in The Press Elite 11, had the game’s final rally in the bottom of the sixth inning as Robert Bunton singled in Taylor Cheli with the winning run in a 4-3 victory. Cheli singled to start the inning, and stole second before Bunton drilled a single to center field with two outs.
The game was an early-season showdown between two of the area’s leading programs. Buena is 2-0 overall and 1-0 in the Cape-Atlantic League National Conference. Sacred Heart is 1-1, with both its games in the conference.
“I was just trying to put the ball in play and make something happen,” said Bunton, a 17-year-old junior. “We came out flat, but we pushed it up toward the end. We made a few mistakes, but toward the end we came back and capitalized.”
Buena has 13 letterwinners back from a team that was 22-8 and won the Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic in 2011. Sacred Heart also returns most of its team after a 21-7 mark last year.
The Chiefs trailed 3-2 through the middle innings after Sacred Heart scored two runs in the third, one on an error and another on a RBI double by losing pitcher Holvin Figueroa (two hits at the plate). But a great throw to the plate by Buena left fielder Cheli and a tag by catcher Manny Colon cut down another runner.
Buena tied it in the fifth inning when a walk to Denny Brady with the bases loaded brought in a run. The inning started when pinch hitter Matt Luisi singled and Bunton added a bunt single.
“I challenged them midway though the game and they created the opportunities to come back,” Buena coach George West said. “We’re not a team that sets things up for a three-run homer. We move the runner and nickle-and-dime teams.”
Starting pitcher Anthony Lopez of Buena went five innings and Sacred Heart’s Figueroa pitched six innings. Jarred Corniell was the winning pitcher with two innings in relief.
“Jarred Corniell shut the door and Robert Bunton got the big hit, and I’m proud of the way those guys stepped up,” West said. “Anthony Lopez didn’t have great stuff today but I asked him to come back on two days’ rest (after two innings of relief Saturday), and he gutted it out.”
Corniell was helped when Colon threw out a runner trying to steal second in the sixth. Corniell then ended the inning with a strikeout and retired the side in order in the seventh.
“I was just trying to do the best job I could for the team,” said Corniell, a 17-year-old junior. “I wasn’t hitting (while playing third base) so I wanted to make up for it somehow. I was definitely more confident in the seventh inning.”
Sacred Heart turned two double plays. The Lions went up 1-0 on Chris Repice’s second-inning sacrifice fly.
“Little things make the difference between two good teams,” Sacred Heart coach John Triantos said. “Both teams made big plays. Our pitcher pitched well enough to get us a win if we hit a couple more baseballs.”
Contact Guy Gargan:
Sacred Heart 012 000 0—3 5 3
Buena Regional 020 011 x—4 6 1
WP—Corniell 1k (1-0). LP—Figueroa 7k (0-1).
Records—Buena 2-0; Sacred Heart 1-1.