TOMS RIVER - The St. Augustine Prep baseball team won a game it needed to boost its confidence Saturday.
On Sunday, the Hermits lost a game that can help them learn.
The Hermits hope both contests benefit them when the state tournament starts next month.
St. Augustine committed three costly errors and lost to Bergen Catholic 6-2 in a matchup of state Non-Public A contenders at Toms River South. St. Augustine's troubles began immediately when an infield throwing error led to two unearned runs in the top of the first inning.
"We're playing these games for a reason, and that's to prepare for the state tournament," St. Augustine coach Mike Bylone said. "It's really no mystery. When you're playing teams of this caliber, you can't make errors."
St. Augustine came into Sunday's game with momentum. The Hermits beat Washington Township 6-3 in a Millville Baseball Coaches vs. Cancer game Saturday.
The victory enhanced St. Augustine's South Jersey credibility. Bylone said the Hermits needed to beat a quality team. The Hermits (10-4) are ranked No. 6 in The Press Elite 11 this week, while Washington Township is No. 7.
"That was a huge win for us," Bylone said.
While Saturday's win showed the Hermits they are more than capable of beating state tournament contenders, Sunday's loss showed them how crisply they have to play to win postseason games.
Bergen Catholic entered the game playing as well as any team in the state. The Crusaders (14-3) had won seven straight and scored double digits in four of those victories. The game was played at Toms River South because it's roughly halfway between the schools. It was St. Augustine's first trip back to Toms River South since it beat Pope John XXIII 8-7 in Toms River to win the 2011 state Non-Public A title.
Bergen Catholic took advantage of nearly every St. Augustine miscue. The Crusaders scored three runs on five singles in the top of the fourth inning to build a 5-0 lead. The Hermits threw two wild pitches in the inning.
"We were lucky enough to jump on them early and stay ahead of them," Bergen Catholic coach Mark DeMenna said. "It's high school baseball and whenever you can (capitalize on the other team's mistakes) you can pile on the runs."
St. Augustine hitters had little success against Bergen Catholic starter Jeff Granger. The Hermits managed just two hits - both Mike Elfreth singles - through the first six innings.
The Hermits did not fade away, however.
Elfreth took the mound as a relief pitcher in the top of the seventh and pitched out of a bases-loaded jam with two strikeouts.
St. Augustine scored its runs in the bottom of the seventh. Nick Enos knocked in Jay Higbee and Sean Carew with a two-out single.
The Hermits brought the tying run to the plate with two outs, but Elfreth line out to left field to end the game.
"Before the last inning, I wasn't happy," Bylone said, "but at least we showed some fire at the end. There's no reason to yell or panic. The guys that made the mistakes know what they did. We just need to work a little harder in practice."
Contact Michael McGarry:
Bergen Catholic 200 300 1-6 10 1
St. Augustine 000 000 2-2 6 3
WP: Granger LP: Gatto
Records-Bergen Cath. 14-3; St. Aug. Prep 10-4