ABSECON — Jay Hoopes approached a pair of reporters with some trepidation Tuesday afternoon.
“I’m not that good at this,” he said. “I’m not too talkative.”
It was a good thing Hoopes’ pitching spoke for itself.
The Northfield resident struck out 11 — all swinging — as the St. Augustine Prep baseball team beat Holy Spirit 5-0 in a matchup of Cape-Atlantic League rivals.
“We’re just rolling right now,” Hoopes said. “This is a good win.”
Hoopes impressed from his first warmup pitches, which seemed to explode out of his hand. He allowed two hits and walked five in six innings.
Several pro scouts attended the game. Hoopes’ fastball topped out at 94 mph on their radar guns. He was still throwing 91 mph in the fifth inning. Most of his strikeouts came on sliders.
“I just tried to mix up my fastball and slider combination,” he said. “It pretty much worked.”
Hoopes’ performance was especially important because St. Augustine has a couple of pitchers out with sore arms.
“We need somebody to eat up the innings,” Hermits coach Mike Bylone said.
Holy Spirit was the perfect opponent for St. Augustine to play Tuesday. The Hermits (12-2) are ranked No. 3 in The Press Elite 11. They were coming off an emotional win over rival Gloucester Catholic on Sunday in highly anticipated contest.
Bylone was worried about the Hermits having a letdown, but St. Augustine and Spirit are also rivals, so there was plenty of motivation.
Hoopes had the added advantage of having grown up with several Spirit players.
Hoopes was matched against Holy Spirt ace Alec Sachais, who allowed two runs in 3 2/3 innings. Coach Jason Downey took Sachais out of the game with the Spartans trailing 2-0.
“Alec was a little fatigued today,” Downey said. “Instead of having him labor through, I decided maybe we’ll give someone else an opportunity there. It was precautionary. I wanted to make sure he stays healthy.”
St. Augustine received offensive production from throughout its lineup. Freshman Kyle Neri was 2 for 3 with two runs scored and an RBI. Anthony Sofran, the No. 9 hitter in the order, was 2 for 3 with a pair of doubles, a run scored an RBI.
“The pitcher isn’t going to throw the ninth hitter a lot of curveballs,” Sofran said. “I was siting back, waiting for the fastball and doing what I could with it.”
But it was Hoopes who was the story of the game. His biggest problem was keeping his cap on his head. It flew off after numerous pitches.
“He’s a special kid,” Downey said of Hoopes. “He throws hard, and the slider is devastating. He has tendency to be erratic, but I think that works to his advantage.”
Hoopes has committed to the University of Virginia. Tuesday was the senior’s second straight dominant outing. He struck out 10 in six innings in a 4-1 win over Buena Regional last week.
St. Augustine has won four straight.
“Jay always tended to be a little wild coming through the program,” Bylone said. “Now he knows he can repeat the effort. He was in command of everything. Things are starting to settle in for us.”
St. Augustine 020 003 0—5 8 1
Holy Spirit 000 000 0—0 2 3
2B. Sofran (2) SA.
WP: Hoopes 3-0 LP: Sachais (2-2)
Records — St. Aug. 12-2; Holy Spirit 7-4