Ardente shines but not much support in loss to EHT

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gamibaseball Matt Strabuk/Absegami’s Matt Ardente throws a pitch against Egg Harbor Township in Tuesday’s 3-2 loss. Ardente, a sophomore, fell to 5-2 on the season. GALLOWAY – Absegami High School pitcher Matt Ardente has opened some eyes this season with his command and presence on the mound.

Ardente struck out five but took the loss in Tuesday’s 3-2 loss to Egg Harbor Township. He also drove in a run to give the Braves a short-lived 1-0 lead, but didn’t get enough offensive or defensive support.

Only a sophomore, Ardente has been a bright spot for the young and rebuilding Braves (7-9), who have no senior starters.

“I’m trying to get my speed up a little bit,” he said. “My off-speed stuff was pretty much what always I relied on for an ‘out pitch,’ so by the junior, senior season, I want to try to get on that record board and get some colleges to look at me. Speed is the most important thing.”

Absegami’s Buck Amend and Tyler Welch were each 2-for-3 with a run scored in Tuesday’s loss.

With so many young players taking key roles, the future should be bright for Absegami. But it was hard to put that in context after Tuesday’s loss.

“We’re having a tough time putting together a complete game, hitting and pitching,” Ardente said. “But we’re keeping our heads up.”

Absegami broke a scoreless tie with a run in the fifth inning on Ardente’s bloop RBI single. And it looked like that was all Ardente would need.

But the Eagles (8-7) 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 got one back with a two-out rally in the sixth, but EHT starter Mike Chontos struck out Ryan Ganner looking with runners on first and second.

In the seventh, EHT relief pitcher Austin 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 clinched a berth in the NJSIAA playoffs with Tuesday’s win. 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.

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