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TOMS RIVER – The St. John Vianney baseball team reached the championship game of the state’s most loaded NJSIAA section thanks to a relentless offense and the near-spotless pitching of senior left-hander Justin Chin.

While the offense and Chin came through early, the Lancers would have to put the finishing touches on their first NJSIAA Non-Public A title in 33 years with an offense that had gone cold and Chin watching from the bench.

Chin pitched 6 1/3 strong innings thanks, in part, to a sparkling defensive play by senior right-fielder Evan Pietronico and junior Dan Schirmacher recorded the last two outs of St. John Vianney’s 3-1 win Saturday over St. Joseph of Montvale to win its first overall Group title since 1981.

Dan Schirmacher reacts to striking out the final batter in St. John Vianney's 3-1 win over St. Joseph Montvale in Saturday's Non-Public A Final. (Photo by Bill Normile)

Saturday’s win completes a 10-0 season for Chin and a 3-0 tournament that included wins over South Jersey No. 1 seed Bishop Eustace, four-time defending Group champion Gloucester Catholic and North Jersey sectional champion St. Joseph. Over his three tournament starts, Chin allowed three earned runs on 19 hits in 20 1/3 innings while striking out 10 and walking only one.

Saturday, Chin allowed a run on seven hits – all singles – while walking none and striking out a tournament-high five.

“I felt like I could have a good season, but I never thought I was going to go 10-0 with an ERA under two and beat all these teams in the state tournament,” said Chin, a New Jersey Institute of Technology recruit who was limited by elbow soreness during his junior season. “It’s been a pretty crazy experience. I knew we had a really good team, and I just wanted to stay healthy and help as much as I could.”

After cruising through the first five innings, Chin made it through six scoreless innings thanks to a home-run robbing catch by Pietronico in the bottom of the sixth. With a runner on second and one out, St. Joseph senior catcher Isaias Quiroz – who was selected by the Texas Rangers in the 20th round of Saturday’s Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft during the game – smacked a long fly ball to deep right field. Pietronico ran to the wall, settled under the ball and reached up and snagged Quiroz’s long drive, which appeared to have just enough carry to clear the fence, if not for Pietronico.

“I knew right away the ball was over my head, so my first thought was, ‘Get to the wall first,’” said Pietronico who nearly made a similar play in the win over Gloucester Catholic Tuesday in which he just missed a running, leaping catch on a seventh inning triple that turned into the tying run.

“My initial thought was that I was going to have enough room, but it got pretty tight once I got to the wall. Fortunately, it’s a low wall, and I just had to reach my glove up.”

“The defense has been great for me,” said Chin, who accounted for Vianney’s only two errors, both on errant pick-off throws to first. “Early in the season, we struggled a little bit with our defense, but it’s been outstanding during the tournament. Today we made all the plays, and Evan made an incredible play.”

Photo by Bill Normile

Pietronico’s catch momentarily preserved a 3-0 St. John Vianney lead, but the Green Knights would eventually chase Chin in the seventh inning after 94 pitches. First baseman Joseph Toepert and second baseman John Greeley both singled to start the inning and right fielder Michael Gallo hit a long fly-out to Pietronico in right that was held up by a breeze blowing in from center field. After Gallo’s loud out, Morgan took the ball from Chin, who was pitching on three-days' rest after going the distance against Gloucester Catholic.

“I wasn’t expecting him to finish the game today, so for him to pitch into the seventh and leave with a shutout on three-days' rest was more than anybody could have expected,” Morgan said. “But that’s how he’s been all tournament. He gave us everything he had, but Danny was rested and ready to go.”

Schirmacher threw nine pitches to three batters and threw all nine for strikes. He allowed a two-out, RBI single to right field by No. 9 hitter and center fielder Mark Rossati to put runners on the corners with the tying run on first, but struck out leadoff hitter Austin Bodrato on three pitches for the final out of the game and second strikeout of the inning.

“It was an unbelievable feeling,” Schirmacher said of recording the last out. “It’s pretty indescribable. Just getting to two strikes and getting ready to throw that last pitch, I knew it was coming. Then when it happened, it was just the greatest feeling.”

Prior to Saturday, Schirmacher last pitched in a 13-9 slugfest win over Christian Brothers Academy in the South Non-Public A semifinals and was warming up to potentially pitch against Gloucester Catholic on Tuesday in case the game went into extra innings.

“Danny didn’t look good in the bullpen down at Rowan (on Tuesday),” Morgan said. “He wasn’t feeling well last week so that probably affected him a little bit, but today, everything looked good in the bullpen so I decided to play a hunch and gave him the ball.”

Chin retired the first 11 batters he faced, but Quiroz ended his perfect run with a line-drive single to right.

“A bunch of my teammates were telling me I didn’t give up hit or a baserunner in the first three innings, so I couldn’t really help thinking about it,” Chin said. “Giving up the hit didn’t bother me because he’s a really good hitter. He gave me trouble all day.”

The St. John Vianney lineup wore down Bodrato, the Green Knights sophomore right-hander who entered the game with a record of 7-0, over the first three innings in jumping out to a 3-0 lead. The sophomore needed 74 pitches to get through the first three innings and finished with 80 in 3 1/3 innings of work.

The Lancers opened the scoring against Bodrato in the top of the second, which began when senior first baseman Joe Rotelli drilled a lead-off double that one-hopped the left-field wall. Senior shortstop Chris Morris – who again backed Chin up with superb defense up the middle – laid down a sacrifice bunt attempt. While trying to throw Rotelli out at third, Bodrato fired the ball into left field, allowing Rotelli to score and Morris to advance all the way to third base.

“We actually figured out that the shortstop was tipping (Bodrato’s) pitches after the first inning,” Rotelli said. “He was flashing his glove on the fastball and when I was up there, I saw the glove, so I knew a fastball was coming, and I just had to put a good swing on it.”

Rotelli’s double caps a state tournament run in which he went 10-for-18 (.556) with a home run, five doubles and nine RBI. For the season, Rotelli led St. John Vianney with a .471 average, 14 doubles, six home runs and 33 RBI.

“It’s hard to describe how I’ve been feeling at the plate,” Rotelli said. “It’s just this feeling of being totally locked in, where you know if a pitcher leaves the ball over the plate, no matter what pitch it is, you’re going to hit it hard.”

“He’s been incredible all year, but these last five games, he’s just been on a different level,” Morgan said. “When he comes up in a key situation, I feel like he’s automatic. It’s almost surprising when he doesn’t get a hit.”

Despite the runner on third with no one out in the second, St. John Vianney settled for just one run in the inning and stranded the bases loaded. Bodrato and Quiroz were saved by the short distance from home plate to the backstop, with three balls getting past the senior catcher to the backstop, and Morris unable to score on all three.

Vianney again set up a scoring opportunity in the third, this time with runners on second and third with two out. Senior center fielder Chris Loney walked to lead off the inning, moved to second on a sacrifice by Pietronico and then to third on a ground out to second by Rotelli. Morris drew one of four walks against Bodrato and stole second base on a swing-and-miss by senior designated hitter Anthony LaVigne.

The swinging strike put LaVigne in a 1-2 hole, but the senior delivered a two-out, two-run single to right-center on a 2-2 count to score Loney and Morris and put St. John Vianney ahead, 3-0. LaVigne struck out in his first at-bat with a runner on third and none out in the previous inning, but made the adjustment in his second trip to the plate.

“I was looking to get a hold of one and hit it over the fence in my first at-bat,” said LaVigne, who is second on the team with four home runs this season. “I didn’t take the right approach in my first at-bat and it cost us a chance to score, so it was important to learn from that and keep a good, opposite-field approach, especially with two strikes.”

After Lancers senior third baseman Pat Devenney launched a one-out double to the wall in right field in the fourth, the Gaels turned to standout freshman Kevin Ortiz on the mound. Ortiz, who is 6-0 this season and hit clean-up for St. Joseph on Saturday, did not allow a hit and walked only one in 3 2/3 innings of relief work, shutting down the state’s hottest offense during the tournament.

Photo by Bill Normile

“You never want to make your pitcher have to pitch a shutout, even though Chin’s basically been doing that for us every time out,” Rotelli said. “Getting those two extra runs was big, but I think we probably got a little too comfortable with a 3-0 lead, thinking Chin was just going to throw another shutout. We got a little complacent, but fortunately, Chin was great, Danny came in and did a great job, and Evan made a helluva catch.”

No player on St. John Vianney’s roster had been part of an NJSIAA Tournament win prior to this season. While the Lancers won the Class A Central championship by sweeping the regular-season series from rival Red Bank Catholic, they failed to reach the quarterfinals of both the Monmouth County and Shore Conference Tournaments.

“I think a lot of us were too worried about individual accomplishments, thinking as long as we got two or three hits, it was going to mean the team won,” said Pietronico, one of the Lancers’ 15 seniors. “At some point, we all needed to start sacrificing for the good of the team by just worrying about making plays that were going to help us win the game. The state tournament was our last chance to leave our legacy and if we were going to go out on top, we all had to start pulling the rope in the same direction.”

“I love this group,” said Morgan, who last won state championships as a football player at Manasquan High School in 1990 and 1991 for legendary coach Vic Kubu. “There was never a doubt in my mind that they were capable of something like this, and I just hoped for their sake they could get on a run like they got on. It’s satisfying for me because I know how hard these seniors worked for four years and to see it pay off is extremely satisfying.”

 

Box Score

St. John Vianney 3, St. Joseph Montvale 1

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

R

H

E

St. John Vianney (20-7)

0

1

2

0

0

0

0

3

3

2

St. Joseph Montvale (24-6-1)

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

1

7

1

 

St. John Vianney

AB

R

H

RBI

BB

SO

Anthony Santoro, C

3

0

0

0

1

2

-- Vincent Durso, CR

0

0

0

0

0

0

Chris Loney, CF

3

1

0

0

1

0

Evan Pietronico, RF

3

0

0

0

0

1

Joe Rotelli, 1B

3

1

1

0

0

1

Chris Morris, SS

1

1

0

0

1

0

Anthony LaVigne, DH

3

0

1

2

0

2

Drew Fisher, 2B

3

0

0

0

0

2

Nick Gugliara, LF

2

0

0

0

1

0

Pat Devenney, 3B

2

0

1

0

1

0

Totals

25

3

3

2

5

8

2B: Rotelli, Devenney
SAC: Morris, Pietronico
SB: Morris

St. Joseph Montvale

AB

R

H

RBI

BB

SO

Austin Bodrato, P-3B

4

0

1

0

0

1

Dom Paiotti, SS

3

0

0

0

0

1

Isaias Quiroz, C

3

0

1

0

0

1

-- Ben Kaplan, CR

0

0

0

0

0

0

Devin Ortiz, 3B-P

3

0

0

0

0

0

Joseph Toepert, 1B

3

0

1

0

0

2

-- Ben Kaplan, PR

0

1

0

0

0

0

John Greeley, 2B

3

0

1

0

0

0

Michael Gallo, RF

3

0

1

0

0

1

Vincent Spoleti, DH

2

0

1

0

0

0

-- Justin Torres, LF

0

0

0

0

0

0

-- Hiro Mizutani, PH

1

0

0

0

0

1

Mark Rossati, CF

3

0

1

1

0

0

Totals

28

1

7

1

0

7

 

St. John Vianney

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

HR

Justin Chin, W (10-0)

6.1

6

1

1

0

5

0

Dan Schirmacher, S (2)

0.2

1

0

0

0

2

0

 

St. Joseph Montvale

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

HR

Austin Bodrato, L (7-1)

3.1

3

3

3

4

5

0

Devin Ortiz

3.2

0

0

0

1

3

0

Pitches-Strikes: Chin 94-67, Schirmacher 9-9, Bodrato 80-44, Ortiz 44-33
Groundouts-Flyouts: Chin 5-7, Schirmacher 0-0, Bodrato 4-1, Ortiz 4-2