BUENA VISTA TOWNSHIP — Yenuelle Rodriguez and his Vineland High School baseball teammates took a look at the banners in the school gym before they left to play in the Cape-Atlantic League title game Friday afternoon.
They noticed the last time the Fighting Clan won a CAL baseball title of any kind was 2017.
“I told my teammates, ‘Let’s look at this. Last time we won this was 2017. It’s 2023. Let’s make history,’ ” Rodriguez said.
Vineland senior Xavier Cortez looked at Rodriguez and said, “You’re right.”
The Fighting Clan turned those words into reality.
Rodriguez hit a home run and starting pitcher Benedetto Andreoli allowed three hits in six innings as third-seeded Vineland beat top-seeded Buena Regional 11-3 to win the CAL Tournament championship.
“This is awesome,” Andreoli said. “Coming out here and getting a win over a good team is awesome.”
Vineland won with production from up and down the lineup. The Fighting Clan had 13 hits.
The key inning was the fourth, when Vineland scored four runs to build a 6-1 lead. Andreoli, who had been struggling at the plate, hit an RBI triple.
“I finally broke through with the bat,” he said. “That felt amazing.”
Rodriguez finished 2 for 4 with two RBIs. His home run, his seventh of the season, was an opposite-field solo shot that clanged off the left-field scoreboard and put Vineland up 10-2 in the seventh.
Cortez and Donny Gomez each knocked in two runs for Vineland, while the No.8 hitter David Ortiz finished 2 for 3 with two runs scored.
Andreoli didn’t complicate things on the mound.
“I started with the fastball and worked off of that,” the junior said. “Let them hit the ball. I know I have a good defense behind me.”
Fans crowded around the backstop at Buena on a sunny day to watch the title game.
Buena and Vineland are rivals. The schools are located a few miles from each other and the players grow up competing against each other. They were scheduled to play a regular-season game against each other earlier this month, but it was postponed.
The Fighting Clan posed for pictures with the championship trophy after the game. Vineland (17-8) plays in the CAL American Division, one of the toughest leagues in the state. The Fighting Clan beat defending CAL champion St. Augustine Prep in Wednesday’s semifinals.
“I feel like the teams we played all this year are getting us ready for the playoffs,” Vineland coach Kyle Jones said. “Every game is a battle. Just because you lose a game doesn’t mean you got beat in that game.”
There was a time when Vineland dominated CAL baseball. The Fighting Clan was always one of the league’s top teams back in the 1990s.
Now, Vineland is back on top.
“The biggest things is keeping everybody in Vineland,” Jones said. “Previous years, we lost guys to the Prep. We lost guys to Delsea. We lost guys to St. Joe. But nobody is leaving now. We built the foundation, and everybody wants to stay and play.”
GALLERY: Vineland vs. Buena Regional in CAL baseball final
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Vineland’s David Ortiz celebrates an RBI double in the fourth inning of the CAL Tournament championship game against Buena Regional.
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