Last Dance Baseball: EHT Downs Mainland, OC Tops Millville
OCEAN CITY — The Last Dance World Series is a pseudo-high school baseball tournament organized by a couple of coaches in north Jersey, the idea being to give graduating seniors one last chance to step onto the diamond before heading off to college, after their final season of prep baseball was wiped out due to the coronavirus pandemic. The tournament features 222 teams from around the state, grouped into regions where this week’s pool play will determine who advances into next week’s single elimination rounds.
Sean Duffy, a 2020 graduate of Egg Harbor Township High School, took full advantage of his final opportunity to take the mound locally, tossing four innings of no-hit ball against Mainland’s entry into the tournament on Tuesday afternoon at Ocean City’s 5th & Bay stadium. But the tournament is also a “first look” of sorts at some of the rising sophomores, juniors and seniors. Duffy’s performance, coupled with a 5-RBI outburst from second baseman Dave Appolonia, helped EHT cruise past Mainland, 7-0, in the opening game of the Ocean City Regional.
Appolonia tagged Mainland starter Ben Bradt for a 3-run home run in the bottom of the first then added a run-scoring single during an three-run outburst in the bottom of the second inning, and for good measure finished his day with an RBI double to the gap in right-center in the fifth.
“He started me off with an off-speed pitch then came in with a fastball. When I hit it, I knew it was a shot. I didn’t know it was going to get over, though. We’re going to try to ride off this and see how far we can take it. I was just trying to do the job,” said Appolonia, who got some playing time in the middle infield as a sophomore last year but lost his entire junior season this spring because of Covid-19. “I’ve been pent up inside this whole time, just trying to work, getting those mirror swing in and waiting to see a real pitcher on the mound. It’s been a while. Last weekend I was playing with my travel team and I wasn’t seeing the ball that well, but today was a good day.”
Duffy was unhittable — literally — through the first four innings before giving way to Mikal Goods for two innings, and Ethan Dodd finished things up with a scoreless seventh. Goods got into some trouble in the fifth as Mainland put together three straight singles with one out, but Goods came back with a pair of strikeouts to end Mainland’s best threat of the day.
“I know my fastball, when I get it middle of the zone and up, they’re not going to touch it because it has enough ride on it. My offspeed stuff wasn’t there today — I think I threw one that got a swing-and-miss on it — but I know when my fastball is in the zone it’s going to be really hard (on the opposing team),” Duffy said. “I haven’t pitched in a while, but I was super excited. It’s a beautiful day out here, the adrenaline was through the roof and I was just letting it fly. I’m in the ACBL with the Margate Green Wave and threw two innings last week against Hammonton to prepare for a start this week. Obviously, I got a little tired at the end but I’ll keep building on that throughout this entire thing.”
Duffy, a High Point University recruit, had some command issues early but settled down quickly and was never really threatened during his four innings on the hill. He said he was thrilled to have one more opportunity to represent the folks from Egg Harbor Township.
“I’ve been working really hard during the time off to make the most of the time we had free to come out of this better and to get ready for school in the fall. I’m going to High Point University, and I was really focused during the time off to be ready when the time comes. Once we found out we were able to do this, we were all ecstatic. And we’re playing to win, we’re not just playing for one last time. That’s what coach (Rod) Velardi and all the guys on the team said, we really wanted to come out here and win the whole thing,” he said. “On my way here today, I was looking out over the bay, and I was thinking, ‘this is awesome.’ I was thinking to myself that I’m so blessed to be able to do this, and I’m so happy this was put together so I can do this one last time with everybody.”
Ocean City 3, Millville 0: Host Ocean City rode a strong outing on the hill from Matt Nunan to score a shutout win over the Millville Lightning (teams are technically not affiliated with their respective high schools, so some have different names or nicknames). Jaden Millstein got things going for Ocean City with an RBI triple down the left-field line in the bottom of the fourth, and Nunan singled him home for a 2-0 lead. Chris Armstrong and Dante Edwardi finished up the shutout in relief of Nunan. The 7 p.m. nightcap features BPC Spartans (Holy Spirit) vs. ACIT.
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @GDsullysays