LINWOOD — Brody Levin helped make Mainland Regional High School starting pitcher Devin Sharkey a winner Tuesday afternoon.

In return, Sharkey helped Levin through his first postgame interview.

Levin’s three-run double was the pivotal hit as the Mustangs beat Absegami 7-3 in a Cape-Atlantic League National Division baseball game. Mainland (8-1) is ranked No. 11 in The Press Elite 11. Absegami (6-2) had won six straight.

“This feels amazing,” Levin said. “I felt like I was floating around the bases.”

Levin stepped to the plate in the bottom of the fifth inning with the bases loaded, the score tied and two outs. The sophomore second baseman had struck out in his previous two at-bats.

“I struggled early in the game and corrected my swing,” Levin said. “I was way out in front. I kind of just stayed back. I had a feeling a curveball was coming, and I put it in play.”

Levin hit that curveball hard down the third-base line. The ball took a big hop over the Absegami third baseman into left field. Three runs scored to give Mainland a 6-3 lead.

“I took a quick peek and saw the ball bounce over (the third baseman’s) head,” Levin said. “I heard everyone cheering. I just took off.”

Levin and Sharkey spoke to a pair of reporters together after the game. Sharkey jokingly told Levin to give more elaborate answers.

“It’s my first interview,” Levin said with a smile in his defense.

The game was played on a sunny, cloudless day. The game was one of the CAL’s most anticipated this week and not just because both schools have winning records.

There are plenty of ties between the teams. Absegami coach Mike DeCicco is a 2010 Mainland graduate and a former Mustangs coach. Absegami’s new principal, Dan Kern, is the brother of Mainland coach Billy Kern.

“I coached about 80% of the (Mainland) kids, whether it was baseball or basketball,” DeCicco said. “I love coming back here.”

The contest figured to be a duel between Absegami’s Sam Daggers and Sharkey, two of the CAL’s top pitchers.

Both threw well, but each occasionally struggled with their control, and both were victims of shaky defense.

Sharkey struggled in the first two innings, allowing three runs. The left-hander consistently fell behind hitters early in the game.

“The first two innings was a bit of a lull,” Sharkey said. “I couldn’t really hit my spots. Walks and hitting kids in the batter’s box never helps you at all.”

Things changed after Absegami intentionally walked Sharkey in the third. Sharkey used the frustration of the walk to energize him on the mound.

“I picked up my tempo,” he said, “and started firing strikes.”

Sharkey found a consistent rhythm from the third through the fifth innings, allowing just two hits during that stretch. He finished with six strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.

On offense, Mainland finished with just three hits, but the Mustangs took advantage of three walks and a hit batsman to score four runs in the bottom of the fifth.

Kyle Goodman drew a bases-loaded walk to tie the game. One batter later, Levin gave the Mustangs the lead for good.

“Kyle’s walk took the pressure off the dugout of who was going to come up with that big hit,” Billy Kern said. “Brody has had multiple hits like that all year. For a sophomore to step up like that is exciting for us for this year and the future.”

After the game, DeCicco lamented some lost opportunities. The Braves left five runners on in the first two innings and the bases loaded in the sixth.

“It wasn’t our day,” DeCicco said. “We’re still a good team. We’ve got four games the rest of this week. Our plan is to focus on tomorrow and hopefully keep it going. We’ll see (Mainland) again at the end of the year. We’ll see if we can continue to put ourselves in position to battle for the division.”

With Tuesday’s win, Mainland assumes sole leadership of the National Division.

“We knew (Absegami) had the same point to prove as we did,” Sharkey said. “Who was going to lead the (division)? We definitely wanted to take that lead. This puts us in the front, and now everybody is following us.”

Absegami;120 000 0—3 6 3

Mainland;200 041 x—7 3 3

2B: Absegam — Sam Muniz, Ray Lewis

WP: Devin Sharkey LP: Sam Daggers

Save: Hunter Rich

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Contact: 609-272-7209 Twitter @ACPressMcGarry

Staff Writer

I've covered high school sports and variety of other events and teams - including the ShopRite LPGA Classic and the Phillies - since 1993.

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