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Northern Burlington beats Pitman to reach Diamond Classic quarterfinals for second time in three years

Northern Burlington's Luca Mannino pitched a complete game and allowed four earned runs, five hits, two walks and struck out 10 batters in Northern Burlington’s 8-5 win over Pitman in the second round of the 50th annual Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic played at Alcyon Park in Pitman, New Jersey on Saturday, May 4, 2024. Chris Baker/D2 Sports Network

PITMAN - 26th-seeded Northern Burlington upset Cherokee in the first round of the 50th annual Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic and was forced to hit the road again.

The Greyhounds slugged their way to another triumph with an 8-5 victory over Pitman in a cold and rainy contest. Northern Burlington clinched a spot in the Diamond Classic quarterfinals for the second time in three years.

The Columbus ball club jumped out to an early lead and held on for the duration of the contest.

A sacrifice fly to right field by Luca Mannino broke the ice in the top of the first inning.

Mannino also went to work on the hill.

Northern Burlington extended its lead in the second inning by scratching across four runs highlighted by a two-run single from Mannino and an one-run single by Brent Walulak.

Pitman responded in the second inning with a run after Jake Sharrow was hit by a pitch. The run was followed up by an RBI single from Brayden Sharkey. It was Sharkey’s 100th career hit. Chris Wylie scored on an error as a pinch runner for Sharrow.

The Greyhounds extended their lead when Tony Kownacki scored on a wild pitch. Cole Marchetti hit a two-run single in the top half of the seventh inning to build the advantage.

“The offense just got going early today,” Marchetti said, “and I felt like I was seeing the ball well all day. “We came to handle business and we hope to just keep moving on and embracing the underdog role.”

St. Augustine transfer Nick Watson blasted a two-run home run to left field for the Panthers.

Mannino quickly shut down his opponent following the home run and picked up a strikeout for the final out of the game.

“This wasn’t a short drive for us so we didn’t want to go home with a loss,” Mannino said. “A lot of people have been doubting us because we’ve lost a few division games but I hope today people start to look at us more.”

Northern Burlington played six games in seven days. The Greyhounds won four of the six. The ability to remain consistent during that stretch was a testament to the grit of the program.

“This was a big week for these guys,” Northern Burlington coach Gene Darling said. “The biggest thing I’ve had them work on is focus. It’s hard to get done a full day of school and stay mentally prepared while sitting on the bus for an hour long ride multiple times in a week.”

Despite a late attempt at a comeback, Pitman fell just short. A few errors and timely hits by the Greyhounds worked against the Panthers.

“The ball just didn’t bounce our way today,” Pitman coach John Hopely said. “We could’ve cleaned a few things up, but overall this is just a small setback while we prepare for the playoffs.”

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