Jack Billings went to St. Augustine as a catcher.
The hard-throwing senior righthander didn’t even pitch his freshman season, but since then he has flawlessly performed whatever role needed, and there have been many.
During a 4-3 win Saturday over Gloucester Catholic in the first round of the Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic at Deptford, Billings scored the eventual winning run and then preserved the victory with two nail-biting innings of relief to earn the save.
Actually, his first inning of relief was no problem – three up and three down, all via strikeout, using a sufficient amount of gas along with a biting slider.
The seventh inning was more eventful. The Rams (13-7 and ranked No. 8 in South Jersey by The Inquirer) loaded the bases on Evan Giordano’s double, a hit batter, and a walk.
With two outs and the bases jammed, Billings got behind 2-1 in the count before eventually ending the game on a called third strike.
“I had to slow down and focus on the hitter,” he said about his game-ending strikeout.
In two innings, Billings struck out six, allowed one hit, and went through plenty of anxious moments.
“I had some mechanical issues on the mound,” Billings said.
Yet he adapted, and eventually got the final out for a Hermits team that is the defending Diamond champion after beating Gloucester Catholic, 8-5, in last year’s title game.
The 6-foot, 215-pound Billings is headed to Virginia Tech. He was recruited as a pitcher but doesn’t know whether it will be as a starter or reliever.
“Whatever they want me to do is fine with me,” he said, reflecting his attitude at St. Augustine.
Last year he was a starting pitcher, but this season he has made just one start.
In 15 2/3 innings he has 33 strikeouts and a 1.34 ERA.
St. Augustine coach Mike Bylone has liked pairing Billings in games started by junior righthander Cole Vanderslice, a Villanova recruit.
That combo worked Saturday. After Vanderslice allowed two unearned runs in the first inning, he settled down, allowing one more in the fifth before departing.
His counterpart, Maryland-bound lefthander Andrew Vail, allowed two unearned runs in the fourth on a sacrifice fly by Joe Bonczek and an error on a botched rundown play.
Final: St Augustine 4, Gloucester Catholic 3. With the bases loaded and two out, St Augustine RHP Jack Billings talks about getting the final out on a called third strike. pic.twitter.com/M3rzbIyxwr
— Marc Narducci (@sjnard) May 12, 2018
The next inning, hot-hitting senior St. Augustine shortstop Josh Hood, who is batting .470 with 11 home runs and 33 RBIs, crushed a two-run double to left. That was the hit on which Billings scored the winning run.
Billings started the game at third base, a position he never played until this season. He went 1 for 2 with a walk.
“I was asked to give third base a try and it has been a good fit,” said Billings, who was an outfielder last season when he wasn’t pitching.
Billings is hitting .413, but his future is on the mound.
In college, he is hoping to be able to also contribute with his bat, because he is having a blast being a two-way player for the two-time defending South Jersey Non-Public A champions, who are 18-3 and ranked No. 2 in South Jersey by The Inquirer.
Yet, he will let his future coaches sort that out, the way he has allowed his present ones to do the same thing.
“He is a great kid, with a good demeanor,” Bylone said of Billings. “He is a team-first guy, never worried about stats,and all he wants to do is win.”
Gloucester Catholic 200 010 0 – 3 4 2
St. Augustine 000 220 x – 4 6 2
WP: Cole Vanderslice. LP: Andrew Vail. 2B: S-Josh Hood; GC-Evan Giordano.