Baseball: Extra day could help Bednarek, other pitchers


By Phil Anastasia

Kevin Merrill figures the delay is good for John Bednarek's arm and bad for everybody else's stomach.

"I know it's good for all the pitchers," Merrill, the Cinnaminson High School baseball coach, said of the postponement of Saturday's state championship games. "But we all want this game to get here as fast as it can. We're so excited to do something that Cinnaminson has never done before."

The NJSIAA announced on Friday that Saturday's state title games in baseball and softball would be pushed back to Sunday to account for heavy rain in the Toms River area.

It's another day of waiting for the baseball teams from Cinnaminson, Eastern, Burlington Township and Gloucester Catholic as well as the softball teams from Washington Township, Haddon Heights and Sacred Heart.

But it's also another day of rest for some baseball pitchers who have been carrying heavy loads through the most pressure-packed parts of the season.

Eastern ace Steve Priolo hasn't thrown since going six innings in the South Jersey Group 4 final against Shawnee May 31 and Gloucester Catholic ace Mike Shawaryn hasn't thrown since going five innings against Paul VI on the same day.

They should be fully rested and ready to go. And they would have been that way on Saturday, too.

But Burlington Township's Ryan Bell went seven innings against Ocean City on May 31, and pitched two innings as the closer against Northern Burlington on Tuesday. He's expected to start against North Jersey power Cranford on Sunday.

Bednarek, a senior lefty, has been a workhorse for Cinnaminson. He has an 8-1 record with a 1.66 ERA. He has struck out 78 in 67 2/3 innings, one of the heaviest work loads in South Jersey.

Bednarek threw seven-inning complete games in a 3-2 victory over Middle Township on May 24 and an 8-1 victory over West Deptford on May 31.

Bednarek also three 3 1/3 innings Tuesday in a 7-6 win over Monmouth.

"He's been at the center of our success," Merrill said. "He's had a tremendous year. He keeps us in every game."

Merrill said Bednarek would have been ready to go if the Pirates had played Saturday. But the day off could help the senior -- even as it raises the anxiety level for the rest of the squad.

"It will help all the pitchers on both sides," Merrill said. "But our guys are ready to play. We're trying to to win a state title for the first time in school history. Our guys just want to play."

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