By Phil Anastasia
It's a lesson as old as the sport and as fresh as the new season.
"That's the stuff we talk about every day," Audubon baseball coach Rich Horan said after another improbable Green Wave comeback resulted in another dramatic victory on Tuesday afternoon.
"Just keep battling away. Good things will happen if you keep playing hard."
Taking its coach's advice to heart, Audubon twice rallied from the brink of defeat for a 7-6 victory over Haddon Township in eight innings in the season opener for the Colonial Patriot and South Jersey Group 1 rivals.
"That's Audubon baseball," said senior Zach Welsher, who drove in the tying run with a bases-loaded walk with one out in the eighth inning on a clear, cold day at Hank Greenberg Field. "We never give up."
Audubon sophomore Austin Tassi, who earned the pitching victory in relief, was hit by a pitch to drive in the winning run.
The loss was a spirit-sapper for Haddon Township, which had a 5-2 lead with two outs in bottom of the sixth and re-gained the edge at 6-5 on Nick Marino's home run in the top of the eighth.
"We let a good team hang around," Haddon Township coach Doug Richardson said. "When you do that, it's going to come back and bite you."
Haddon Township got strong work from starting pitcher Pat Burns, who allowed just one hit in four innings, as well as shortstop Tyler Easterday, who was 3-for-4 for a single, double and triple.
Welsher was 2-for-3 with two RBIs and reached base four times. Tassi allowed just one hit -- Marino's home run -- 4 2/3 innings and also was 2-for-3 and reached base four times.
Audubon rallied in the bottom of the sixth as a two-out, two-run outfield error cut the deficit to 5-4. Senior third baseman Bob Panico tied the game with an RBI double.
"With a young team, we're probably going to have to win a lot of games this way," Panico said. "To come back against our rivals and win this way, it means a lot for us."
Marino crushed a 3-2 pitch over the fence in right-center with one out in the top of the eighth to push Haddon Township to the verge of a confidence-boosting victory over its fiercest rival for the second time.
But Audubon rallied again in the bottom of the eighth. With one out, junior Eric Schorr laced a single and sophomore Mic Mannion roped a double into the gap in left-center.
After an intentional walk loaded the bases, Welsher worked the count to 3-2 and took ball four to tie the game.
"I was looking for something to drive," Welsher said. "But I knew the pressure was on the pitcher to throw strikes so I wanted to be patient."
Two pitches later, the Green Wave players were pouring out of the dugout in celebration as a curve ball plunked Tassi in the leg to force in the winning run.
"This game was huge," Panico said. "Even when things are going bad we're going to look back at this game and remember it all season long."
Haddon Twp.021 200 01 -- 6 9 2
Audubon 101 003 02 -- 7 7 4
WP: Austin Tassi. LP: Nick DeRitis.
2B: Tyler Easterday, HT; Bob Panico, Mic Mannion, A.
3B: Tyler Easterday, HT.
HR: Nick Marino, HT.
Contact Phil Anastasia at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @PhilAnastasia on Twitter.