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Egg Harbor Township powers up for playoffs with clutch win over Absegami

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ehtbaseball1 Matt Strabuk/EHT senior Mike Chontos fires a pitch against Absegami in Tuesday's 3-2 win. GALLOWAY – The Egg Harbor Township High School baseball team played as if their season depended on the outcome of Tuesday’s game at Absegami. In a sense, it was that important.

EHT clinched a berth in the NJSIAA playoffs with Tuesday’s 3-2 win, improving to 8-7 at the 15-game cutoff. They also gained valuable power points, which are a factor in playoff seeding for the first time this season.

Power points are largely based on the strength of the opponent, and Absegami is a fellow Group IV team with seven wins coming into Tuesday’s game.

“So we’re going to move up a couple spots (in the seedings),” EHT coach Bryan Carmichael said. “That’s what the kids were playing for today, to play for a higher seed. Now we’re looking at maybe a 12-13 seed instead of a 14-15, and that can make a huge difference.”

With so much at stake, the Eagles went to their “go-to guy,” Mike Chontos. And Chontos did not disappoint, pitching six strong innings with four strikeouts and also going 2-for-4 at the plate.

Austin Fottrell registered the save, his fourth of the season, with a clean and efficient 1-2-3 seventh.

“I know he doesn’t look it,” Carmichael said of the modestly-sized Chontos, “but he’s now 4-1 on the season with a couple no-decisions in games that we won. “He’s a real competitor out there.”

“Sometimes they underestimate how hard I throw,” said Chontos, a senior who is headed to Alvernia College near Reading, Pa., to play Division III ball next year.

“We’ve lost a couple close games this year,” Chontos said. “But it’s all about the postseason. This was a big win for us.”

ehtbaseball2 Matt Strabuk/EHT relief pitcher Austin Fottrell shuts the door on Absegami with a 1-2-3 seventh inning Tuesday. Chontos said he didn’t really want to come out of Tuesday’s game, but he knew that handing the ball over to the big guy, Fottrell, was the best decision for the team. “Like the coach told me, my velocity was looking a little down, and not as much break on the curve ball. We ended up getting the win, that’s all that matters.”

Absegami broke a scoreless tie with a run in the fifth inning on Matt Ardente’s bloop RBI single. And it looked like that was all Ardente, the Braves' top pitcher, would need. But the Eagles finally broke through in the sixth on Mike Lahoud’s RBI single, an Absegami error, and a sacrifice fly by B.J. Rivera to take a 3-1 lead.

Absegami (7-9) got one back with a two-out rally in the sixth, but Chontos struck out Ryan Ganner looking with runners on first and second.

In the seventh, Fottrell struck out Mike Dolan looking, retired Ardente on a flyout, and got Matt Branco on a popout to end the game.

“I like the pressure, I need the pressure to be able to pitch,” said Fottrell, a junior. “I go with the adrenaline - big situation, bases loaded - I like to be ‘The Man.’ I had to save that game for (Chontos).”

EHT plays Hammonton Thursday at home. The playoffs are scheduled to begin May 20.

“We’re hoping to make a little run in the playoffs,” Fottrell said. “We have the team for it. We just have to make sure we play hard and stay focused.”

 


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