Heading into the current South Jersey Group III postseason baseball tournament, Mainland Regional hadn’t claimed a single playoff victory since 2003. The Mustangs now have three of them this month.

Led by a sensational effort from pitcher Matt Tepedino, Mainland topped Cape-Atlantic League foe Hammonton in the South Jersey semifinals Tuesday afternoon. The team earned a 4-1 road win to advance to its first sectional championship game since 2003, when current head coach Billy Kern was a standout shortstop.

The 11th-seeded Mustangs search for a South Jersey title Friday, taking on top-seeded Moorestown. Mainland is on the verge of capping off an unlikely underdog story. Tepedino tossed a two-hitter against Hammonton, striking out seven Blue Devils batters in the process. He kept Mainland ahead throughout a matchup defined by tense moments. Mainland led 2-1 in the sixth inning, searching for insurance runs to support Tepedino. The Mustangs found them when Billy Talarico delivered a two-run hit. A three-run cushion was plenty for the senior pitcher, who slammed the door on Hammonton by recording the final six outs he needed to record a complete game.

Mainland eliminated Hammonton from title contention in the Blue Devils’ final season as a CAL member. The Mustangs have already made significant strides for a program that struggled to find postseason success in past years. Suddenly, the squad is one win away from making history.

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