MANSFIELD TOWNSHIP – Kingsway’s Landon Edwards knew what the goal was for the day the moment his alarm clock went off on Thursday morning.
“When I woke up, I decided I wanted to get this 400th win for Coach,” Edwards said. “It’s great. It’s what I was aiming for today.”
Edwards did just that.
The Dragons, ranked 15th in the latest South Jersey Sports Zone Top 15, topped No. 10 Northern Burlington 6-0 in the first round of the 47th annual Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic as coach Bill Alvaro notched his 400th career victory. Edwards delivered five shutout innings scattering only two hits and two walks. The sophomore also struck out six.
"First pitch (off the game), I decided I just wanted to pound the zone, throw strikes and get swings and misses,” Edwards said. “When I wasn’t pounding the zone, I decided to try and (let the opponent) get some contact swings and we got the outs. Kids made plays and held them scoreless.”
As for Coach Alvaro, he was thankful to reach the milestone victory with this select group of student-athletes.
“I knew it was going to be with this group and I’m glad it was with this group,” Alvaro said. “That’s all that matters. I wouldn’t want to have any other group than this group right here. They’re phenomenal and they do everything we ask of them. It’s just a great group of kids. I support them, they support us — we got a good mix."
"This group wants to make their mark on Kingsway baseball. That’s what their goal has been since Day One. We expected to be in this tournament and we expected to win in this tournament. We want to keep going.”
The Dragons took a 2-0 lead in the top of the third inning following a RBI single by leadoff hitter Ben Maiers. Right fielder Colin Gill scored on the play before Maiers proceeded to get caught in a rundown between first and second base, allowing second baseman John Rorick to score from third. Rorick also singled in the inning.
In the top of the fourth inning, Kingsway extended its lead to 3-0 after an RBI double by first baseman Jake Kupsey. Old Dominion commit Ethan Burbage scored on the play.
Edwards provided his own run support with a RBI single in the top of the fifth inning to give the Dragons a 4-0 lead. Courtesy runner Steve Maiers scored from third after a leadoff triple from catcher Connor Wood.
“It got the hitting started,” Edwards said. “We were rolling after that. We just added on to the lead that we already had. It was great.”
Steve Maiers proceeded to make contributions beyond being a courtesy runner. The senior delivered two shutout innings, surrendering only two hits and striking out three batters.
“I came in and wanted to challenge hitters,” Maiers said. “Stay ahead in counts, throw strikes and just play our game.”
That wasn’t Maiers only late-game contribution.
Following a single by North Carolina commit Justin Szestowicki in the top of the seventh inning, Maiers smashed a two-run home run to deep center field to seal the victory.
It turns out Maiers didn’t execute Coach Alvaro’s initial play call.
Most coaches would be furious. However, this instance took a peculiar turn for the better.
“I was actually supposed to bunt,” Maiers said. “We had runners on first and second, I was supposed to bunt, and I bunted at a pitch over my head. My brother (was on second and) got thrown out and then I got to swing the bat. I got a curveball, he hung it and I hit a home run. I was just looking for a nice pitch to hit and I got a good one.”
Kingsway improved its record to 10-4-1 on Thursday. The Dragons have quality wins over Northern Burlington, Jackson Memorial and Williamstown, and lead South Jersey Group 4 with 257 power points entering Friday.
“We still have the same expectations,” Alvaro said. “We had a couple hiccups here and there and we played a tough schedule. These guys wanted to play the best teams out there and we put together a schedule to challenge them. With that kind of schedule, we’re gonna have some hiccups here and there. They’re going to keep working through it, they work hard and we’ll be fine.”
The Dragons will advance to play top-seeded Bishop Eustace in the quarterfinals of the Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic. The Crusaders are currently ranked No.1 in the South Jersey Sports Zone Top 15 and are the top-ranked team in New Jersey.
“We talked about it (on Wednesday),” Alvaro said. “We said, ‘we go out and take care of business (on Thursday) and then why not us? Somebody’s going to have to knock them off to win this tournament.’ Why not Kingsway.”
The players are up for the challenge. As for right now, the plan is to enjoy the 6-0 victory over Northern Burlington that brought Alvaro his 400th career win.
“It feels great,” Maiers said. “Coach Alvaro is a great coach, a great guy, and it felt good to get the win for him.”