Spartans on the map after upset of St. Augustine Prep

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Pikus Kyler Pikus An early-season win can set the tone for a baseball season. It can turn a rebuilding team into a contender by helping a team gain confidence, something that is very important in the game of baseball.

In last Thursday’s (April 11) matchup between Holy Spirit and St. Augustine Prep, we might have seen how an early season upset could lead the Spartans to a successful season.

Led by a masterful performance from sophomore pitcher Kyler Pikus, Holy Spirit upset one of the top teams in the state by stunning the Hermits, 11-9, on the road. Many think St. Augustine, a perennial Cape-Atlantic League powerhouse and South Jersey title favorite, is the top team in South Jersey.

Pikus threw 5 1/3 innings to earn the win.

“Kyler is a solid competitor," said Spartans head coach Bob Soifer. “He is a real student of the game and understands how to pitch. He never seems to get rattled and keeps his composure no matter what the situation is. For a sophomore pitcher to get the ball against a team like the Prep and get down 2 - 0 in the first inning ... in my opinion that is what mental toughness is all about.

Pikus kept the Hermit hitters off-balance for five innings, mixing in his circle-change and curve-ball until his pitch count started getting high. He followed his plan for the game almost to perfection.

“I wanted to keep them off-balanced,” Pikus explained. “I wanted to have them guessing wrong; even with 2-0, 3-1 counts, I was using my off-speed pitches. I wanted to hit my spots and change speeds, and just keep them off-balanced."

Hopkins Ricky Hopkins A lot of credit also must go to catcher Ricky Hopkins and the way he handles all the Spartans pitchers behind the plate. He has been a senior leader both behind the plate and at the dish for Holy Spirit this season. Hopkins had two doubles and three RBIs and Brandon Ott added an RBI double for the Spartans.

“We went in there with expectations to beat them,” Hopkins told 97.3 ESPN radio. “We knew we would need to play our best baseball, we didn't do too much, we stayed within ourselves and pulled it out.”

Holy Spirit scored six runs in the sixth to move out in front 11-2, as Right fielder Joe DiBuonaventura, who had two hits on the day, delivered a three-run triple in the sixth inning. The Hermits didn’t go away lightly, scoring five runs in the bottom of the sixth and two more in the seventh to close the gap.

The two programs are two of the top teams in the area almost yearly. They both attract some of the top talent South Jersey has to offer; that's why the win was so special for second-year head coach Bob Soifer’s team.

“A win like this shows our players that we can compete with the best teams in South Jersey,” Soifer said. “Obviously we compete with other choice schools and the Prep for top athletes in the area, so when you have a successful game like this we hope it sends a message that Holy Spirit baseball will be working hard to find baseball players that are committed and enjoy competing every day to have their name on the roster and in the starting lineup.”

The win over St. Augustine took some of the sting out of an opening-game loss to Egg Harbor Township, in which the Spartans blew a 6-1 lead.

“We have to remember that feeling we had against the Prep,” stated Hopkins. “It was a great feeling, but we need to remember the feeling we had against EHT too.”

“We don't want to get to excited where we’re at now,” Soifer said. “On the other hand we want to feel like we are a good ball club and we are moving forward and learning who we are every day.”

Regardless, a win like that puts Holy Spirit on the map. Teams will now be gunning for them, much like they were gunning for the Prep.

“Beating the Prep was great,” Hopkins said. “But it's in the past now; we have a lot more we want to accomplishment.”

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