By Phil Anastasia
It was time for Washington Township to turn the page.
The Minutemen were 9-5 in April. That's not bad. That just wasn't what they expected with so many key players back from last year's 27-3 team.
But the first day of May represented a fresh start and Washington Township took full advantage with a 3-2 victory over Eastern on Wednesday in an Olympic American clash of Top 5 teams.
"The playoffs are coming around, the Diamond (Classic) is coming around," Washington Township senior shotstop Matt Long said. "This was a huge win for us to start the month of May."
Long (pictured) was 1-for-1 with a double, reached base three times and made the game's key defensive play for Washington Township (10-5 overall, 5-1 in the division), the No. 5 team in The Inquirer Top 10.
Junior third baseman Tom Flacco rapped a pair of RBI singles and senior right-hander Steve Priolo pitched a complete game for No. 2 Eastern (15-2, 6-1).
Priolo allowed five hits with five strikeouts. But the Vikings committed five errors as all three of the Minutemen runs were unearned.
"We haven't committed five errors all year," Eastern coach Rob Christ said. "It was wholly uncharacteristic of us."
Washington Township can clinch the Olympic American's automatic berth in the Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic with a victory over Cherry Hill East on Thursday. The Minutemen will have the tie-breaker advantage over the Vikings based on a better record against common opponents in the division.
If Cherry Hill East wins, Eastern will earn the division's automatic berth.
"We still have a chance to accomplish every single goal we set at the beginning of the season," Washington Township coach Bill Alvaro Jr. said.
Alvaro Jr. said injuries, illness and a tough schedule that included losses in out-of-conference games with Delbarton and St. Augustine Prep contributed to his team's inconsistent play.
"We haven't had the same lineup," Alvaro Jr. said.
The Minutemen won Wednesday with a formula that worked well in 2012: Strong pitching, good defense and opportunistic offense.
Junior Mark Scarpa went six innings, settling down after some early struggles. He faced just 14 batters in the final four innings.
Senior Dylan Warburton earned the save, working a scoreless seventh.
"There's nobody else I would rather see out there," Scarpa said of Warburton.
Washington Township senior third baseman Tom Hildebrand delivered a two-out, two-run double after an infield error in the first inning.
The Minutemen scratched out the winning run in the fourth as Long walked, stole second and scored on an infield error.
Long also made the game's pivotal defensive play, ending an Eastern rally in the fifth by fielding a grounder in the hole and firing a strike to Hildebrand to nail a runner who made the turn past third base.
"We won last year with pitching and defense," Long said. "We got that today. Mark (Scarpa) pitched great and we made the plays in the field.
"We were a little flat at times early in the season but we've put that behind us. We know we still control our own destiny."
Eastern 110 000 0 -- 2 8 5
Washington Twp. 200 100 x -- 3 5 1
WP: Mark Scarpa. LP: Steve Priolo.
2B: WT-Tom Hildebrand, Matt Long.
Contact Phil Anastasia at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @PhilAnastasia on Twitter.