By Phil Anastasia
It took Zach Warren 30 pitches.
It took Barry Buchowski one swing.
Warren, the St. Augustine Prep junior pitcher, took the long road to his comfort zone in Wednesday's 3-2 victory over Hammonton in a Cape Atlantic American Division I game on the Hermits' home field.
Buchowski, the St. Augustine Prep senior catcher, got there with one short, sweet swing.
"I didn't think it was out," Buchowski said of his fifth-inning home run that provided the margin of victory for St. Augustine Prep (4-0 overall, 2-0 in the division), the No. 3 team in The Inquirer Top 10.
Warren worked six innings, allowing three hits with nine strikeouts. Six batters reached base against him in the first two innings, but he retired 12 of 14 in his final four.
"The first couple innings, it was hard to find it," said Warren, a 6-foot-4 athlete who has drawn recruiting interest from programs such as Rutgers, Florida and Vanderbilt. "Some days, you have it right away. Some days, it takes a while and you have to battle to find it."
St. Augustine Prep coach Mike Bylone said Warren got better as the game got longer.
"He didn't have his best stuff but he worked through it," Bylone said. "He got stronger as the game went along."
Hammonton (4-1, 1-1) got strong work from senior right-hander Justin Smith, who went the distance. He allowed 10 hits but made key pitches at key times to keep the Blue Devils in the game.
"He's a gamer, he's a battler," Hammonton coach Gary Sarno said of Smith. "He's what we're all about."
Sarno said he was proud of his team's effort against a team that recently rose to the No. 1 spot in the Newark Star Ledger's state rankings.
"I tip my cap to them but I also tip my cap to our guys," Sarno said.
Senior shortstop Christian Adorno, a Wilmington recruit, manufactored a run for St. Augustine in the first. He singled, stole second and third and scored on an overthrow.
Hammonton tied the score at 1-1 in the second as Nick Ezzi delivered a two-out, RBI single. St. Augustine went back in front in the bottom of the second as Sean Carew doubled and scored on an RBI single by Ryan Piscitelli.
The key hit in the game was Buchowski's blast over the left-field fence leading off the fifth. It gave the Hermits a 3-1 lead, providing a margin for error that proved decisive when the Blue Devils scratched out a run thanks to Anthony Cruz' double in the top of the sixth.
"I had a 2-0 count and tried to put a 2-0 swing on it," said Buchowski, who has signed with Tulane. "I thought maybe it was a pop-up or would reach the warning track but it went over the fence."
Hammonton 010 001 0 -- 2 4 2
St. Augustine 110 010 x -- 3 10 1
WP: Zach Warren. LP: Justin Smith.
2B: H-Anthony Cruz; SA-Mike Elfreth, Sean Carew.
HR: SA-Barry Buchowski.
Contact Phil Anastasia at email@example.com. Follow @PhilAnastasia on Twitter.