St. Augustine tops Gloucester Catholic for Diamond Classic crown

St. Augustine head baseball coach Mike Bylone holds up at the 44th annual Diamond Classic Championship trophy with his players.

There's never a bad time for career home run No. 1. But some times are better than others.

Greg Elfreth picked "the perfect time" to clear the fence for the first time as a high school baseball player.

The St. Augustine senior third baseman delivered a three-run home run to spark the Hermits to an 8-5 victory over rival Gloucester Catholic on Sunday night in the title game of the 44th annual Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic.

"I can't even describe it," Elfreth said of his emotions while circling the bases before a large crowd at Eastern High School. "I was in a zone like, 'Did I just do that?' "

Elfreth was 3 for 4 with four RBIs and junior rightfielder Kevin Eaise was 2 for 3 and scored three runs for St. Augustine (20-5), which pounded six extra-base hits in winning the championship of the prestigious, 16-team tournament for the second time since 2014.

The Hermits also got strong work on the mound from senior righthander Paul Meduri, who earned the win with 11/3 innings of scoreless relief, and sophomore righthander Cole Vanderslice, who closed the game.

"It's huge," Meduri said of winning the tournament.

Of beating rival Gloucester Catholic for the second time this season and third time in a row, Meduri said, "It never gets old."

Brendan Bean was 2 for 3 with two RBIs and Chris Turco hit a tape-measure home run for Gloucester Catholic (23-3), which had won nine games in a row.

"This will make us hungrier for the playoffs," Gloucester Catholic coach Adam Tussey said.

Gloucester Catholic beat Eastern, 7-4, in Sunday's semifinals while St. Augustine edged Shawnee, 2-0, behind Mike Miles' three-hit pitching with seven strikeouts.

The title game matched two of South Jersey's proudest programs and emotions ran high after Turco's towering blast that landed halfway up the hill behind the left-field fence, a good 400 feet from home plate.

Turco flipped his bat high in the air before rounding the bases. He got an earful from the home-plate umpire upon arrival back at home to cut St. Augustine's lead to 7-4 in the bottom of the fifth.

When St. Augustine pitcher Jack Halbrunner hit the next two batters with the next two pitches, he was ejected from the game by the plate umpire.

"I was ready but I wasn't ready for that," said Meduri, who was rushed into the game when Halbrunner was ejected. "I just had to keep my composure."

Elfreth doubled and scored in the first and delivered a two-out, RBI single in the second.

He came to the plate with runners on second and third and one out in the fourth. A singles hitter who occasionally laces the ball into the gap, Elfreth said he was trying to hit a line drive.

He certainly wasn't trying for career home run No. 1. But the lefthander swinger drove an 0-1 fastball over the fence in right-center, giving the Hermits a 7-3 lead and bringing his teammates out of the dugout in celebration.

"I definitely picked the right time," Elfreth said. "I'll remember this the rest of my life."

St. Augustine 211 300 1 - 8 11 2

Gloucester Cath. 102 010 1 - 5 6 2

LWP: Paul Meduri. LP: Angelo DeAngelis.

2B: SA-Greg Elfreth, Kevin Eaise, Jack Billings, Nick Lonetto, Joe Bonczek; GC-Evan Giordano, Adam Bonomo, Brendan Bean.

HR: SA-Greg Elfreth; GC-Chris Turco.

St. Augustine 020 000 0 - 2 5 0

Shawnee 000 000 0 - 0 3 0

WP: Mike Miles. LP: Jake Coolahan.

2B: SA-Kevin Eaise, Kenny Levari.

Eastern 000 220 0 - 4 8 2

Gloucester Cath. 014 101 x - 7 6 1

WP: John Kasper. LP: Cole Boyan.

2B: E-Louis Priolo, Jack Winsett; GC-Chris Turco.

3B: GC-Lillo Paxia.