Paving the way: Pioneers win SJ Group IV championship

Win over Williamstown gives Clearview second title in five years

Special to The Sun: The Clearview Pioneers baseball team celebrates on the field at Williamstown after capturing the South Jersey Group IV title earlier this month.

Clearview head coach Derrick Reagan went into the 2021 baseball season believing his team had the talent to compete against some of the best teams in South Jersey.

Because of that, Reagan scheduled what he admitted was a rather tough season within Group IV, with Clearview playing its fair share of Olympic Conference and non-public teams to get ready for a potential postseason run.

Over the course of the season, Reagan and his coaching staff continued to look at how much the team was buying into the program and how hard it worked to be the squad they thought was possible.

“The goal is always to get to a South Jersey final every year, and obviously throughout the year, as the team starts to come together, you start to realize if you have a shot or don’t have a shot,” said Reagan.

“We knew that there was talent in the school and they won a SJ Group IV title just five years ago … So we gave ourselves a tough schedule in order to prepare us for the playoff,” he added.

Throughout the regular season, Reagan and his staff saw more than just a glimpse of a team coming together, but also a pitching staff that excelled time and again with a lineup card and defense that shined just as bright.

“I remember saying near the beginning of the year that if we were .500 going into the playoffs, that we were battle-tested,” said Reagan. “We were 13-6 going into our first playoff game, and I felt confident at that point we were going to make a run and just take it game by game, because anything can happen at that point.”

Following what Reagan said felt like a quick postseason, the Pioneers celebrated at Williamstown on June 11 following a 3-1 eight-inning victory over the Braves. The team captured the program’s second South Jersey Group IV title in five years.

The talent Reagan previously alluded to once again shined during the championship game, most notably in situational hitting and pitching, both of which were top notch all season.

Senior Derek Boerner hurled eight innings of one run ball, with the lone run being unearned. He allowed only three hits and struck out four, keeping the Williamstown hitters guessing throughout the entire game.

With the victory, Boerner finished the season 6-1 on the year, one of two ace caliber pitchers in Clearview’s rotation, with fellow senior Julian Costa having pitched in numerous high-leverage situations for the Pioneers during the year as well.

The two-headed monster of Boerner and Costa allowed a combined 21 earned runs over 114 innings pitched. Boerner himself only allowed seven through 47.1 innings, while Costa, a West Chester University commit, struck out 92 batters through 56 innings.

Senior catcher Adam McEvoy caught both pitchers throughout the season. Having already been familiar with their different styles and tendencies, McEvoy said it was exciting to call games behind the plate for both Boerner and Costa, and he felt confident in their abilities each time the team played.

“We’ve all always been playing against each other or with each other growing up over the years, so it was awesome to be able to go out there and do our thing together for one last time,” said McEvoy. “I feel like we were always on the same page, no matter which one of them was on the mound, because we all know how we play so well.

“Julian has a little more velocity so we usually used more fastballs to beat guys and to keep guys guessing,” the catcher added. “And then Derek was great at locating his pitches and hitting his spot with great off speed; it felt like he will never not locate a pitch when he’s up there.”

Reagan said McEvoy also is a prime example of good situational hitting, aside from his abilities behind the plate. The senior led his team in walks while also being second in RBIs.

“I really worked a lot on my swing this offseason and figured out what kind of pitches I really like to hit,” said McEvoy. “And then of course I also didn’t want to swing at anything off the plate, I just wanted to find my pitch and drive it somewhere into the gap.”

Reagan, a former catcher himself, praised McEvoy’s ability to lead a team and be so heavily involved with its success throughout the year.

“Going into last year, he’s one of the guys I personally relied on the most as a leader,” said Reagan. “He’s one of the most mentally tough players on the roster, which comes with his territory of course, so that relationship between him and I is big. You want your strongest leader behind the plate and he’s been amazing back there … plus, he’s been clutch at the plate himself, driving guys in, especially with two outs.”

Just a few days after winning the sectional title, Reagan said he believes his team was successful due to the players being willing to buy into the coaching staff’s culture and desire to play.

“The biggest thing for us is that they bought into what we were selling as far as a culture,” said Reagan. “They are a tight group as a senior class, they love being around one another and their team chemistry kept us going. We really did keep getting better as the year went on and we hate that it’s over already.

“They wanted to be remembered and they certainly etched their names in South Jersey and especially in Clearview,” added Reagan.