The team that loses that final game is suddenly ushered out of the spotlight, but getting to that point is a tremendous feat, especially while competing in the NJSIAA Non-Public A baseball state tournament.

St. Augustine has been on the brink the previous two years and now the Hermits hope to kick that always-difficult door open.

On Saturday, St. Augustine (25-4) will meet Delbarton (22-8) in a rematch of last year's state final in a 7 p.m. game at Veterans Park in Hamilton. Delbarton won last year's state championship, beating the Hermits, 2-1, in a game as tight as the score indicated.

The previous year, St. Augustine fell in the state final to Seton Hall Prep, 4-2.

One thing the Hermits learned from the last two state finals is that as admirable as it is to reach that level, it leaves an empty feeling in the gut afterward.

"The emotions will be flowing," senior shortstop Josh Hood said before Thursday's practice at the high school. "I am hoping they are joyous emotions, instead of devastating ones."

Hood, who is headed to Penn, has been a starter in the previous two state championship games. He said that watching two teams celebrate in the Hermits' final game the past two years, is a motivating factor.

"I don't want to be watching a dogpile," he said. "I want to be in the action."

Hood has been in the center of plenty of action this year. He is batting .419 with 14 home runs and 44 RBIs.

St. Augustine has played an extremely difficult schedule, which should help. One of the wins was a 6-1 victory over Delbarton, but that was nearly two months ago.

What was truly impressive was how St. Augustine was able to win the South Jersey title, no easy feat, for the third straight year.

This season's South Jersey tournament was especially challenging. After earning a first-round bye, the No. 3-seeded Hermits had to beat a recent MLB draft pick to advance. The Hermits defeated surging Paul VI, and righthander Will Gambino, 3-2. Gambino, a University of Kentucky recruit, was drafted in the 35th round by the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday.

In the semifinal, St. Augustine had to win a wild 12-11 slugfest at No. 2-seed Bishop Eustace. That avenged a 4-1 regular-season loss to the Crusaders.

After two one-run victories over Olympic Conference National Division teams, St. Augustine beat Notre Dame, 6-1, in the final. In between, the Hermits lost to Eastern, 4-1, in eight innings in the Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic championship.

"The schedule is tough, but we embrace it," Hood said.

Before the Hermits puff their chests too much, they are facing a Delbarton team that hasn't allowed a run in three North Jersey Non-Public A game, outscoring teams, 11-0.

The Green Wave capped it with an 8-0 win over perennial power Seton Hall Prep in the North Jersey Non-Public A final, capitalizing on a seven-run sixth inning.

For both teams, there have been a few easy moments in this tournament and it should continue in the championship.

"It feels amazing to get here a third time," said senior Jack Billings, a Virginia Tech recruit, who is 4-0, with a 2.01 ERA and three saves and is batting .441 with seven home runs and 30 RBIs.

And with all the high-intensity games the Hermits have played, none will carry more pressure than the state final.

"You work so hard and put in so much effort and it comes down to one game," Billings said.

St. Augustine pitcher Jack Billings is congratulated by catcher # 5 Nick Lonetto after the Bishop Eustace vs. St. Augustine H.S. boys baseball game at Union Field in West Deptford on May 27, 2018. The Hermits defeated Bishop Eustace 3-1. ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer
Elizabeth Robertson
St. Augustine pitcher Jack Billings is congratulated by catcher # 5 Nick Lonetto after the Bishop Eustace vs. St. Augustine H.S. boys baseball game at Union Field in West Deptford on May 27, 2018. The Hermits defeated Bishop Eustace 3-1. ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer

Don't tell the Hermits that they have had an outstanding season, regardless of the outcome of this game, even though it's true.

"We feel like we should be here and we are now and it's time to go out and play," said senior catcher Nick Lonetto, who is batting .341 with four home runs and 33 RBIs.

The players, especially the seniors, aren't into gloating about their accomplishments this year. They know the feeling of seeing the opponent celebrate in the last game of the season and this year's team is intent on creating its own dogpile.