Seneca back on top of South Jersey Group III

Solid pitching from Nick Decker and a big sixth inning helped the Golden Eagles win, 6–0, over Cherry Hill West in Friday’s South Jersey Group III championship.

Seneca High School senior Nick Decker led the Golden Eagles all year long with his bat.

But in Friday’s South Jersey Group III Championship, Decker’s arm was what helped Seneca win its first sectional title in seven years.

Decker was brilliant on the mound, pitching six innings of shutout baseball to help the Golden Eagles to a 6–0 win over Cherry Hill High School West. The win gave Seneca its first sectional title since the 2011 season, when the program went on to win the Group III state championship.

Decker found himself on the mound Friday despite pitching sparingly during the regular season. Prior to Friday, Decker had only thrown more than one inning in two games all year.

“I’m not pitching at the next level, but I love doing it,” said Decker, a Maryland commit who is expected to be an early round selection in next week’s Major League Baseball draft. “I love competing out there every pitch.”

“We just wanted to make sure he wanted to do it and all the guys wanted to do it,” head coach Jay Donoghue said about the decision to start Decker. “It was a collective thing. If you’re going to go out, you want to go out with your best pitcher on the mound.”

Decker was in a pitcher’s duel for five innings with Cherry Hill West’s Brian Robertson as neither team could get a run across the plate in the first five innings. In the sixth inning, Seneca finally erupted for three hits as they scored five runs.

“We get contributions from different guys every game,” senior Kevin Gsell said. “Ryan (Graham) came through today. Josh (Willitts) came up with a big hit.”

Willitts’ two-run single in the sixth inning was just his second hit all season and showcased the amount of depth the team has.

“Everybody on the bench knows we’re going to know every single player to win the game,” Decker said.

Donoghue called the victory a team win and felt his team has gained more and more confidence with each playoff win. When Seneca last played at Cherry Hill West in April, they lost a tight, back-and-forth game, 9–7. The loss was Seneca’s fourth in a row at the time after the Golden Eagles began the season with five straight wins.

“We started out down in Myrtle Beach, we started really well,” Donoghue said. “Then we lost a couple tight ones and we were still just pressing, we were really tight.”

“We’re playing a lot better team defense,” Gsell said about the team’s improvement. “Pitchers are throwing strikes and we’re getting hits when we need to.”

In May, Seneca has been red hot, losing just two games since May 4. Both of their losses were against two of the state’s top private school teams, St. Augustine Prep and Bishop Eustace Prep.

There was a ton of emotion after Friday’s game as the players were excited to bring a sectional title back to Seneca. Decker basked in the moment, but added the team isn’t finished yet. Seneca will play in the NJSIAA State Semifinals on Tuesday, June 5 and hopes to repeat what the 2011 team did in winning a state title.

“This is an awesome way to end my high school career,” Decker said. “But we’re not done yet. We still have two left.”