By Jim Hintelmann
TOMS RIVER – Three weeks can be a big difference for a baseball team, as St. John Vianney can happily attest.
The Lancers dropped an 8-4 decision to A Central Division rival Red Bank Catholic on May 17 in the Shore Conference tournament. The Caseys was a team it had beaten in two earlier meetings.
SJV, however, was a totally different team when the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Non-Public A Tournament began. The team capped a spectacular run with a 3-1 victory over St. Joseph’s (Montvale) to win its first state Non-Public A championship since 1981.
“After the RBC game was over, the coach (Mike Morgan) had left and the team got together and we said to ourselves that we are a lot better than this. We had so much talent and we just had to put it together,” winning pitcher Justin Chin said.
“We have 14 seniors on this team and today was their graduation day,” he said. “After the graduation, the team came down to hit at Brookdale and then came down here. It was a great graduation present and I’m proud of them.”
“This is like winning the World Series,” said first baseman Joe Rotelli. “It’s a fantasy come true. We were seeded eighth and here we are.”
Chin (10-0), who allowed only three runs in the tournament in 20 innings against three of the top teams in the state (Bishop Eustace, Gloucester Catholic and St. Joseph’s), scattered five hits, had zero walks and struck out four.
He was relieved by Dan Schirmacher with two outs and two on in the seventh.
Schirmacher gave up an RBI single to Mark Fossati but struck out Austin Bodrato to end the game.
“The fastball was my best pitch,” said Chin, who will be pitching at NJIT next season. “I was able to locate it today. People were doubting us a bit but we showed everyone what we could do. I’m almost speechless right now. What a way to go out.”
Chin retired the first 11 batters of the game before Isaias Quiroz singled to center.
SJV scored its first run in the second inning when Rotelli doubled and scored on a throwing error.
The Lancers made it 3-0 in the third on Anthony LaVigne’s two-run single, and that was all Chin needed.
Chin’s closest call came in the third inning when Quiroz hit a long fly to right where SJV’s Evan Pietronico made a leaping catch at the fence.
“I didn’t think it was going out at first,” Pietronico said, “but I was able to catch it.”
“I was a little nervous when he hit the ball,” Chin said, “but Evan is a great fielder and it was a relief to see him make the catch.”
In addition to the Non-Public A title, SJV also won the A Division Central championship.