Ewing/Hopewell Babe Ruth outfielder William Haynes makes a play July 8, 2016 against Point Pleasant. Ewing/Hopewell won, 10-0. (Photo by John Blaine.)

When Drew Brodine and the Ewing/Hopewell Babe Ruth 15-year-old all-star baseball team returned this year, they came back with a new confidence.

“I think this year we’re more experienced because we had last year,” said Brodine, the right fielder and a big bat for the team. “We grew as a team and we came into this year stronger.”

Brodine was named to the all-tournament team after helping Ewing/Hopewell repeat as District One champions with an 8-2 win over Hamilton on June 27. Brodine had three runs batted in for E/H in the championship, including an RBI during their six-run first inning.

“We thought we played very well,” Brodine said. “Our pitching helped a lot. In the final game, our offense finally came around.”

The Ewing/Hopewell team advanced and hosted the Southern New Jersey state tournament at Moody Park. They reached the championship game before falling to Atlantic Shore, 6-3, on July 15. Ewing/Hopewell’s other loss came in the double-elimination state tournament when they lost, 9-3, to Atlantic Shore in the winners’ bracket final three days earlier.

Atlantic Shore, the defending Babe Ruth 14s World Series champions, kept Ewing/Hopewell from returning to the Mid-Atlantic Regional.

“In 14 innings, we had two bad innings against them,” said Ewing/Hopewell manager John Scaccetti. “We were right there in both games and gave them a run for their money.

“I think what it proved is District One has some great baseball, especially Ewing/Hopewell. We didn’t have to prove anything to ourselves. We knew how good we were.”

This year’s Ewing/Hopewell 15s team consisted of Titusville’s Brodine and Ed Chmara, Pennington’s Ryan Coughlin, Dylan Joyce, Marc Porpora and Kyle Randazzo, Lambertville’s Robbie Rose, and Hopewell’s William Haynes, Grayson Russo and Anthony St. John. The Ewing residents were Tyrique Alston, Blair, Dakota Ditmars, Henry Hutchinson and Anthony Yarson.

“We have good team chemistry,” Brodine said. “We’re all friends and we trust each other. We’re friends on and off the field. Usually before games we have a team bonfire. Even before that, we just clicked in the practices.”

Their success last year helped to instill an even brighter outlook in the team and they came back determined to do well again this year.

“We weren’t sure if we could handle the teams we played last year,” Brodine said. “After handling those teams, we know we’re strong enough to beat them. I think we’re very much improved from last year because we have more confidence.”

Ewing/Hopewell started its summer run with a 1-0 win over its toughest district foe, Hamilton, in its District One opener. Coughlin laid down a bunt and Joyce scored ahead of the throw in the seventh inning for a hard-fought win.

“It helped a lot,” Brodine said. “It really got us going. That was our first important game of the year. We practiced a lot but weren’t sure how we were going to do. Once we got one, we got going.”

The offense broke out in an 11-1 win over Mercer East in the second game of the districts, and Ewing/Hopewell wasn’t pushed to an if-game when they stopped Hamilton again in the championship to earn the district crown. Chmara went the distance in the title game and he had a two-run single in the first inning. Ewing/Hopewell would have advanced anyway as the hosts of the state tournament, but the group still wanted a title.

“It felt really good,” Scaccetti said. “The kids came back. They didn’t want to rest on winning last year and hosting states. They came out focused and wanted to repeat.”

Ewing/Hopewell opened state play with a 10-0 win over Point Pleasant. They stopped Mercer East, 13-1, in their second game before running into Atlantic Shore for the first time. Ewing/Hopewell led, 3-2, in the sixth inning, but Atlantic Shore pulled away with seven runs in the seventh inning.

Brodine helped Ewing/Hopewell bounce right back to reach the championship. In an elimination game against Hamilton, he was one of three E/H players to homer in the 8-3 win. Yarson also had a solo drive and Porpora had a two-run home run as they flexed their bat strength.

“I knew that they would eventually come around,” Brodine said. “It was just the first game and we were getting used to it.”

Brodine helped produce at the plate, and he has been solid in right field all summer. It’s a new spot for the former infielder and catcher, who has been working on his speed and strength.

“He’s athletic,” Scaccetti said. “He can track the ball and has a tremendous arm. Drew is a great hitter. He has power to all fields. He’s a line-drive hitter.”

Brodine was named to the all-tournament team for District One along with St. John, Joyce, Chmara, Blair, Rose, Yarson and Ditmars. Brodine’s strong Babe Ruth season has set him up for a promising year in which he hopes to make the jump to varsity for Hopewell Valley Central High.