Extra Points: Surf Wins Inaugural South Jersey South Shore Baseball Title
BUENA VISTA TOWNSHIP - South Jersey Surf first baseman Logan Petty hadn't washed his baseball pants since April.
By the time took the field in Thursday's South Jersey South Shore Baseball League Championship Series against the Buena Blue Dawgs, they were caked with dirt accumulated by four months' worth of slides into second and dives for ground balls. The back pocket was also ripped.
"The last time I washed them was right before I fractured my tibia (while playing for Atlantic Cape Community College)," said Petty, older brother of Minnesota Twins 2021 first-round draft pick Chase Petty. "(The Surf) got off to a good start, so it became sort of a superstition. After every game, I just kept throwing them in the trunk of my car until the next game. Now, I don't what I'm going to do with them. I'll either throw them in the trash or frame them."
Petty's pants, along with an impressive pitching performance by ACCC teammate Jake Brennan, carried the Surf to a 1-0 victory over Buena Thursday, enabling them to win the inaugural SJSSL championship series 3-1.
Brennan, a left-hander, prevailed in an exciting pitcher's duel against Buena right-hander Greg Zerbe, who plays for Washington Township High School. Brennan relied on a slider and mid-80s fastball to keep the Blue Dawgs off-balance while allowing six hits. Zerbe pounded the strike zone all game. He retired the first 11 Surf hitters and wound up allowing just two hits while notching six strikeouts.
The Surf scored the only run in the top of the seventh. Dave Appolonia reached second on a Buena error and scored on Nick Nutile's RBI single down the right-field line. The Blue Dawgs had a chance to tie it in the bottom half of the inning when Johnny Monell smacked a leadoff double to center, but Brennan pitched out of the jam.
After the final out, the Surf rushed the field, threw their hats in the air and celebrated.
"I missed my spot with Monell's hit," said Brennan, a St. Joseph of Hammonton graduate. "But there was no way I was letting them score. I love to pitch in games like that. I love the intensity."
Approximately 200 fans showed up at Bruno Melini Park for game four of the best-of-five series. Some watched from the stands behind home plate, some sat in canvas chairs along the base paths while others parked their pickup trucks beyond the right-field fence and sat on the tailgates, legs dangling over the edges.
Public address announcer Rick Cahall, who performed the role for the old Atlantic City Surf for a few years, greeted them.
"Welcome everyone to a great night for baseball at the Dawg Pound!" he said.
There were other similarities to the Atlantic City Surf.
South Jersey manager Jeff Ball was the Surf's manager for three seasons (2004-06) and was their general manager in 2007. Their black jerseys featured the familiar wave logo while spelling out "Surf" in blue letters.
Ball, who is also an assistant coach at ACCC, joined the South Jersey version in 2017 while it was a member of the Atlantic County Baseball League and known as the Margate Green Wave, then followed it over to the new SJSSBL this past winter following a dispute between some members of the respective organizations involving Covid-19 protocols during the playoffs.
The Green Wave/Surf was one of six teams - Absecon, Egg Harbor City, Northfield, Ocean City and Ventnor were the others - to leave the ACBL after last season and join the SJSSBL along with Buena, Egg Harbor Township, Galloway Township and Somers Point.
As a result, the Margate Hurricanes and Hammonton were the only two teams in the ACBL this season. They will meet in a best-of-three championship series starting Monday.
"It's really difficult to compare the two leagues," said Buena's Marcos Rios, an assistant coach at Cumberland County College who played for Northfield in the ACBL for three seasons. "When you're playing in the ACBL, you're playing against men. In the South Jersey League, it's mostly younger players in high school and college. It's a faster-paced game."
The ACBL has been in existence for over 140 years. It dates back to an era when every town had a team. Generations of families have played. The SJSLBL also has its advantages. All games were livestreamed and college coaches had access to statistics.
Here's hoping the respective leagues can find a way to reach a compromise. Find a way to blend tradition with innovation.
Most importantly, leave the egos in the dugout.
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