Team Effort Leads Holy Spirit H.S. to State Baseball Title
Senior second baseman C.J. Egrie led off the Non-Public B state championship game on Wednesday afternoon at Veterans Park with a sharp single to center field. He then stole second, went to third on a groundout by Trevor Cohen, and scored three batters later on a single to left by fellow senior Shane Solari.
From that point on, there was no doubt who the state champion would be.
Holy Spirit tacked on six more runs — including single runs in the third and fifth and a three-run rally in the top of the sixth — and let senior righty David Hagaman do the rest en route to a 7-1 win over Morristown-Beard. It’s the second title in six years for the Spartans, who beat Rutgers Prep in 2015 during Steve Normane’s first stint as head coach. Normane, also the school’s athletic director, returned this season after spending a couple of years guiding the Holy Spirit softball team.
“It was a long road, but this is what you play for. We knew we had the type of team that could get here, we had confidence and we trust our guys,” said junior third baseman Ryan Spina, who cleared the bases with a three-run single in the sixth that gave the Spartans some breathing room.
“This is the most amazing feeling of my life — and that’s saying something because we had a great football season, too,” said Egrie, who was a starting defensive back on a Holy Spirit football team that finished No. 1 in South Jersey last fall. “I already had that feeling of winning a state championship in football (in 2019), but I didn’t have anything for baseball. All we had were a couple losses to Gloucester Catholic, and now this is a different type of exciting for me.”
The day belonged to Hagaman, a University of West Virginia commit who came over to Spirit from Cedar Creek after starting as a pitcher and infielder for the Pirates for three years. He had command of his fastball, and his breaking ball was too much for the Crimson. Morristown-Beard (14-11) didn’t manage a hit until the fifth inning, and its only run came via a solo homer by catcher Jordan Greenaway in the bottom of the sixth. Hagaman allowed just two hits on 90 pitches over sixth innings, and Jayden Shertel, a transfer from St. Joseph Academy in Hammonton, worked a scoreless seventh and needed just 10 pitches to shut things down.
The Crimson stayed within striking distance with Michael DeSantis on the hill, but in the top of the fourth he was nailed on the hand with a line drive off the bat of Cohen and had to exit the game. That same inning, Spina left the bases loaded when he grounded out to shortstop. That was on his mind when he came up again in the sixth with the bags juiced.
“I just didn’t get the pitch I wanted, got jammed. But then I came up in a big spot again, they walked Jayden, and I delivered. It feels great,” he said.
Nearly everyone in Holy Spirit’s starting lineup had a hit, led by two apiece from Egrie, Shane Solari and Trevor Smith. Solari had a pair of RBI singles and senior shortstop Steven Petrosh with 1-for-4 with an RBI.
“We had a rough start to the season, and if you would have asked me three years ago, I never thought I’d be here. I always wanted to come to Spirit, it just never went through. They had a good staff at Cedar Creek, but I just love it over here. Once I came here, I connected with everyone right away. We had a tough start, but deep down we knew that once we started playing well there was a really good chance we could win our last game,” said Hagaman, who had seven strikeouts and just one walk. “It felt amazing because I’ve had my ups and downs. I’ve had good starts and I’ve had bad starts, so I just came into this game thinking about all my good starts. I didn’t think about anything bad. I just thought, put it over the plate, let them do what they do. No. 27 hit a nice shot, but that happens. I went in with the mentality of just letting them hit it.”
“You can’t ask for more from David. He came out and gave us his heart,” Spina said. “It’s an honor to play with these guys, it’s a great senior class and we’re going to miss them next year. Jayden and David came to Holy Spirit, and we won a state championship. It’s awesome.”
Hagaman said he knew he had a no-hitter going into the fifth inning, but like any pitcher didn’t talk about it with anyone.
“I was aware, but once they got a hit all the pressure was off and I just had to keep pitching from that point,” he said. “After the third inning I was pretty much locked in. I gave up the hit and got a little off track, but then I calmed back down and I was good after that.”
The victory caps off some long and distinguished high school careers for seniors such as Petrosh, Hagaman, Egrie, Shertel and Solari. They helped the Spartans finish 19-9 this season.
“I played with all these guys growing up, Shane, Trevor (Cohen), C.J. We all had chemistry together before we even got to Holy Spirit, and once we got the boat rolling, from there on we knew we had it,” Hagaman said. “Ever since eighth grade I’ve been thinking about winning a state championship in high school. People might say it’s only high school, but you can’t beat this. I’ve been playing with these kids my entire life and it’s great to see everyone win.”
“We took care of business. David did his thing. All year he was solid and he brought that today and gave us the win, pretty much. We had confidence before the game, when we were back at Holy Spirit hitting in the gym. We didn’t want to jinx anything, but we knew we were going to win. We got here and it’s a beautiful field, a great day to play some baseball. We just took it like it was another game we had to play and take care of business,” Egrie added. “This is something I’ll tell my kids about. All those weight room sessions, all the times we got screamed at, all those blazing hot practices, this is what we do it for. It’s all for this. And I’d do it all again.”