LINWOOD — The Holy Spirit baseball team is hoping a brutal early season schedule will pay dividends down the line, when it counts — i.e., in the state playoffs. For right now, though, the Spartans’ offense has had to take it on the chin in the first week of the season against some of the top pitchers in the state.

Earlier this week, Spirit was shut down by Mainland’s Chase Petty, who allowed just one hit in a complete game, 5-2 victory that featured 13 strikeouts by the No. 1 pitching prospect in the state and a potential first-rounder in this summer’s Major League Baseball draft. Today, at the Coaches vs. Cancer showcase at Mainland, the Spartans got a similar dose of castor oil from Don Bosco Prep righty Kevin Jaxel, who twirled a three-hit shutout in the Ironmen’s 6-0 victory.

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The loss dropped Holy Spirit, the No. 2 team in the state according to’s weekly rankings, to 2-2 on the young season.

“Even though we’re facing great pitching, I feel like our team has been having great at-bats,” said Holy Spirit senior shortstop Steven Petrosh. “You can’t do much against Chase Petty. Out of the couple of games we’ve had, we’re just taking the positives out of it. We’re looking at our at-bats and seeing what we can do better. Hopefully after today we’re going to get the ball rolling tomorrow.”

Jaxel was in command from the very start, and helped his own cause by blasting a three-run homer in the top of the third that gave the Ironmen (4-0) an early 4-0 lead. That was about all that Spirit starter Jayden Shertel allowed, however, as he settled in over the next couple of innings until Don Bosco picked up a couple of late runs against the Spartans’ bullpen.

“Our pitching is immaculate, and if our pitching is good our offense has to help us out a little bit. Hopefully tomorrow we’ll get on the right side of .500,” Petrosh said. Petrosh, Shane Solari and C.J. Egrie were the only Spirit players to get a hit off Jaxel, who finished with seven strikeouts.

Holy Spirit has a chance for redemption on Sunday in the Autism Awareness Challenge at North Brunswick Community Park, where the Spartans will take on another top 10 team in the state in No. 9 Pope John. Petrosh said the Spartans know why coach Steve Normane put together such a challenging early season schedule.

“That’s what coach Normane was saying. He had these first couple games lined up for a purpose,” the Kean University commit said. “With this great pitching, all the eyes are on us, and I feel like it’s good we’re losing so that we can prove at the end of the season what we’re all about. Some guys are starting to get a little down, but it’s up to the seniors to say, ‘listen, we’re good enough to win, we just need to play like we know we can.’ I feel like almost every day we’re playing, so there isn’t time to sit and be sad, or sulk, if you had a bad game. If you had a bad game, you can come out and go 3-for-4 the next day.”

What’s next: Holy Spirit vs. Pope John at North Brunswick Community Park, 4 p.m. Sunday, in the Autism Awareness Challenge.

Contact Dave O’Sullivan:; on Twitter @GDsullysays

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