All season the baseball team has been looking for a win that could change the temperature of the squad and take it to a higher level.
Game after game passed and the trademark win never came.
Finally, Wednesday arrived, and the Eagles found themselves in position to grab a big victory. It would be too late to make any significant impact on the regular season, but could give the team some much-needed momentum heading into the Group 2 playoffs.
Back at the scene where it won a South Jersey title last year, West Deptford took a 4-1 lead into the seventh inning against Haddonfield.
But instead of the breakthrough win, the Eagles got more heartbreak, as they committed two errors in the frame to squander the lead and eventually fell, 5-4, in nine innings.
It was a game the team needed in the worst way, simply for some positive energy prior to Tuesday’s playoff opener.
“We needed it extremely bad,” said West Deptford coach Mike Rucci. “We were going up against a team that has been playing extremely well. You come to their place and have a chance to beat them, up three in the last inning, and to not be able to close hurts.
"You can change a bad season around mentally with one good win.”
Close losses have been something the Eagles have been all too familiar with. The team has been in just about every game this season, yet finds itself with a 7-15 record and losers of five straight.
“We’ve lost seven games by one run,” Rucci said “Seven. That hurts. You can’t do it, especially heading into the playoffs.”
West Deptford jumped out to a 3-0 first-inning lead thanks to the ineffectiveness of Haddonfield starter Jason Cavanaugh, who walked five of the first six batters he faced before being removed. The Eagles would score just once more—on an RBI single by Isaiah Easterling that plated Tyler Castellano—and finished with four hits.
The four runs appeared to be more than enough for Castellano, who cruised through six innings, allowing just a solo home run off the bat of Mike McLaughlin.
However, Haddonfield got a one-out walk followed by a double and an error on a groundball that brought the Bulldawgs within two. McLaughlin then tied the game hitting a hard ground ball past third, plating a pair of runs.
Haddonfield won the game in the bottom of the ninth when Robert Perkins singled off Brendan Glass to plate Vince DelDuca.
West Deptford committed three errors over the final three frames, giving Haddonfield life, and ultimately the game.
“That’s when we have been making errors this year. We make them in big situations and that hurts you,” Rucci said. “You can’t make errors in big situations or else you are going to end up on the negative side of games, and that’s why we are where we are.”
West Deptford needs to look no further than Haddonfield as an example of what could have been this season. The Bulldawgs were 1-4 heading into their showdown with the Eagles back on April 9. Haddonfield pulled out a 3-1 victory and went on to win 13-out-of-15 games.
West Deptford never found that type of rhythm.
“That’s just the difference between finding ways to win and finding ways to lose,” said Rucci. “If you take advantage of those things, maybe we are the four seed and have 14 wins, but we’re not, and that’s frustrating.”