MARGATE - Charlie Law's Margate Hurricanes teammates greeted him at home plate with howls and high-fives.
His grand slam in the bottom of the sixth inning put an exclamation mark on the opening game of the best-of-five Atlantic County Baseball League finals, a 13-1 victory for the top-seeded Hurricanes over No. 2 Absecon on Monday night.
After the short celebration, it was all business for Margate as its players and coaches quickly turned the focus to the next game.
"We're up 1-0," Margate coach Yogi Hiltner said. "But you've got to win three. The score doesn't mean anything."
Game 2 is tonight in Absecon at 7.
Absecon had a chance to take the lead in the top of the first inning when leadoff hitter Mike Hampton was hit by a pitch and E.J. Stoltzfus followed with a single. Dan Allen drew a one-out walk to load the bases, but Margate's Lou Pepper settled in and struck out the next two to get out of the jam.
Pepper pitched all six innings, allowing six hits and one run and striking out seven.
"I felt I could see the (strike) zone pretty good," Pepper said. "And my defense made some big plays. The double plays were huge to help get us out of trouble."
Margate turned three double plays in a game that ended one inning early on the 10-run rule.
The Hurricanes took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first when Pat Goodwin led off with a double and took third base on a passed ball. Magic Mears hit a sacrifice fly to right field to drive in Goodwin.
After a scoreless second, Absecon again had chances to tie the game in the third and fourth innings.
In the third, Hampton led off with a double and Stoltzfus followed with a walk, but a double play and a popout ended the threat.
In the fourth, Absecon's Kevin Cicali led off with a shot to deep center field, but Mears made a jumping catch at the fence to rob him of a home run.
"We squandered the opportunities that we had," Hampton, a player-coach for Absecon, said after the game.
Margate's offense was sparked in the bottom half of the fourth when Jason Law crushed a 3-0 pitch to deep right-center field for a home run.
"I gave him the green light on a 3-0 count and he took advantage pretty good," Hiltner said.
Margate added another run in the inning when Dan Coia's single scored Steve Shrenk, and from there the Hurricanes continued to roll. Margate scored three runs in the fifth inning and seven more in the sixth capped by Charlie Law's grand slam ended the lopsided game.
"Timely hitting is what it came down to," Hiltner said. "They actually outplayed us in the early going but couldn't get the big hit. Pepper didn't have his best game, but you knew he would keep us in it."
Absecon's only run came in the top of the sixth inning when Cicali led off with a solo home run to center field.
Hampton said Absecon would be ready to battle in tonight's Game 2.
"We've got a bunch of young guys (who can) forget about this," Hampton said. "They're a resilient group."
Hampton said the team has faith in top pitcher Dan Allen, who will start tonight.
"He's our stud," Hampton said. "We'll be playing on a bigger field (tonight). We just need to play smart baseball and hopefully count the runs."
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