Baseball – South Non-Public A Preview
NJSIAA South Jersey, Non-Public Group A Final
Tuesday, June 3, 4 p.m.
At Rowan University
No. 2 Gloucester Catholic (26-5) vs. No. 8 St. John Vianney (18-7)
Probable Starting Pitchers
A quietly spectacular season by St. John Vianney senior left-hander Justin Chin got a whole lot louder a week ago Tuesday when he shut out one of the most statistically potent offenses in the state in Bishop Eustace.
Tuesday’s challenge could be a whole lot tougher, not because of the lineup that will oppose him but because of the pitcher who will and the jersey he and his teammates wear.
Coming off one of the more impressive feats any Shore Conference pitcher this season has accomplished when he blanked Bishop Eustace, Chin will oppose Gloucester Catholic junior John Murphy and a Rams team that has won four straight NJSIAA Group championships, the last two of which have come in this loaded Non-Public A field.
The pitching match-up Tuesday is the definition of a “contrast in styles.” Chin (8-0) is the prototypical strike-throwing left-hander, as he showed in his masterful 70-pitch shutout against Eustace. Of those pitches, 52 were strikes, and with two strikeouts and no walks, the ball was consistently in play and the Lancers defense backed him up. The sectional quarterfinal performance was in line with Chin’s full season, during which he has walked only 10 in 53 2/3 innings while allowing 52 hits with 42 strikeouts and a 1.56 ERA.
Murphy – a University of Maryland recruit – is a power right-hander whose one soft spot has been some occasional wildness that is mitigated by power stuff against which opponents have had trouble making contact. In 54 innings this season, Murphy (8-1) has allowed only five earned runs (0.65 ERA) on 28 hits with 80 strikeouts, but he has issued 21 walks (2.72 per seven innings) and has issued three or more free passes in six of his nine starts. Murphy also has a major big-game pedigree, which began when he won the Non-Public A final as a freshman.
While both pitchers have each used their own style to win eight games this season, they share a common challenge of facing off against top-notch lineups. Few teams can match the run that St. John Vianney has been on during the NJSIAA Tournament, during which the Lancers have scored 36 runs in three games, good for 12 runs per contest. While Gloucester Catholic beat a St. Augustine team Friday that was ranked No. 1 in the state by the Newark-Star Ledger at the time, that was a Hermits squad built on its pitching staff more than its lineup.
With that being said, Gloucester Catholic put up nine runs on St. Augustine on Friday. The name of the game with Gloucester Catholic is “pressure” and the Gloucester Catholic lineup will look to continue making quality contact against a St. John Vianney defense that has risen to the occasion during the state tournament by committing only two errors in its three games.
Senior first baseman Joe Rotelli has been the Lancers headliner during its tournament run, going 7-for-12 with four doubles, a home run and nine RBI during the tournament. While Rotelli and senior Anthony LaVigne have put up the power numbers, seniors Evan Pietronico and Anthony Santoro have both had strong follow-ups to huge junior seasons. Pietronico is 6-for-10 with two doubles and six runs scored in the tournament, and in addition to hitting .423 this year, he has a 21-to-9 walk-to-strikeout ratio.
Senior center fielder Chris Loney has caught fire at the right time as well for St. John Vianney over the last two games. In wins over Bishop Eustace and Christian Brothers Academy, Loney was 5-for-6 with a home run, double, six runs scored and five RBI.
Chin meanwhile will have to contend with a Gloucester Catholic team that is short on seniors but heavy on gaudy stats. Senior Phil Dickinson is hitting .376 with five doubles and three triples, while junior Sean Breen has been the team’s best all-around hitter at. .446 with 10 doubles. Junior Anthony Harrold leads the Rams with five home runs and 40 RBI to go with a .383 average and sophomore Nick Seccia has been the team’s hottest hitter during the NJSIAA Tournament, going 6-for-9 with two doubles and four RBI in the three wins over Bishop Ahr, Camden Catholic and St. Augustine.
While Gloucester holds a major edge in tradition, the Lancers have a senior-heavy group that has been building to this for four years. With a red-hot offense at the plate, St. John Vianney will ask its left-handed ace to turn in at least one more winning performance.