By Phil Anastasia
The Northern Burlington baseball team got new uniforms this season but Zach Gakeler still had use for his old jersey.
He shoved it in his equipment bag as a reminder.
"I keep that jersey in my bag so I can remember what happened at the end of last season," Gakeler said.
The senior left-hander and his teammates arrived for Friday's clash with rival Burlington Township with a little extra motivation and left their home field with a little extra satisfaction.
"This was payback," Gakeler said after Northern Burlington's 5-3 victory over Burlington Township in a Burlington County League Liberty Division game.
Gakeler led the way on the mound and at the plate. The Pitt recruit pitched a complete game with 11 strikeouts and also drove in three runs.
"He's a rock," Northern Burlington coach Rich Doppler said of Gakeler.
Junior lead-off hitter Tyler O'Dell reached base three times and scored two runs and junior centerfielder Ryan Shinn walked four times for Northern Burlington (5-0 overall, 3-0 in league play), the No. 3 team in The Inquirer Top 10.
The Greyhounds wore uniform tops in a camouflage print for the program's "Salute to Military Day." Representatives of the various armed services were introduced before the game.
Senior catcher Dave Viselli cracked a solo home run and junior shortstop Robert Stevens and senior centerfielder Jacob Guzdek delivered RBI hits in a seventh-inning rally for Burlington Township (1-3, 0-3).
"To have as many moving parts as we have and to play that kind of game against a team like Northern, I can't be anything but proud," said Burlington Township coach Jason Stec, whose team has been battling injuries as well as an illess to a key player.
The game was more than a battle of division rivals. It also was a rematch of last year's Group 3 state semifinals, won by Burlington Township by a 4-3 score.
"That always sticks in the back of your mind," Gakeler said.
Northern Burlington jumped to a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first as Gakeler and junior catcher Adam Rapp delivered RBI singles.
Viselli, a St. Joseph's recruit, made it 3-1 with a blast over the left-field fence in the top of the fourth.
"He's really starting to swing the bat," Stec said of Viselli.
Northern Burlington made it 5-1 with a two-out, two-run rally in the bottom of the fourth. Gakeler delivered the big hit, a two-run single after Shinn walked to load the bases.
"It kind of ticked me off," Gakeler said of the two intentional walks issued to Shinn.
Burlington Township rallied in the seventh as Robbie Cox and Eddie Kotch rapped singles, Stevens delivered an RBI double and Gudzek drove in another run with a bunt single.
Doppler went to the mound but said he never seriously considered removing his ace from the game.
"I would had gotten voted off the island," Doppler said.
Gakeler retired the last two batters, with a big assist from sophomore second baseman Pat Welsh, who made a running catch of a fly ball on the right-field line.
"That's the play there," Stec said.
Doppler said he was pleased with his team's play in a game that his athletes regarded with such importance.
"It was a redemption game for our team," Doppler said.
Burlington Township 000 100 2 -- 3 8 4
Northern Burlington 300 200 x -- 5 6 2
WP: Zack Gakeler. LP: Robbie Stevens.
2B: BT-Isaiah Hall, Rob Stevens.
HR: BT-Dave Viselli.