WIILIAMSPORT - Smiling Jersey Shore players gathered as equally happy parents snapped picture after picture. One of those photos likely will soon adorn Jersey Shore's wall of champions.
That picture perfectly will sum up Jersey Shore's 2012 season, too. The players are together in the photo and this team has made history together. This team has never been about one or two players carrying it. Egos always have been set aside and the only stat players have ever cared about is wins.
And once again, when it comes to District 4 Class AAA baseball, Jersey Shore is the ultimate winner. Once again, it is the champion. The year has changed but Jersey Shore is still the one.
Tellef Notevarp pitched a complete-game, eight-hit shutout, the defense played spectacular and Jersey Shore blanked Milton, 5-0 in the District 4 final Wednesday at Bowman Field. The Bulldogs (17-2-1) captured their second straight title, not allowing a run in either game, and earned a spot in Monday's state tournament against the District 2 champion, likely back at Bowman Field.
"It is nice knowing that everyone one through nine and on the bench are all equal," Notevarp said. "Anyone can come in and play at the same pace. We're just really good as a team."
"We've had a lot of walk-off hits from guys that don't play every day and we ask the guys to leave their egos on the bus," Jersey Shore coach Matt O'Brien said. "It was a total team effort, from defense, to pitching, to making things happen on the bases and putting pressure on the defense."
Jersey Shore became the first back-to-back district champion in program history. It also is the first to win a league title and district crown in the same year.
Notevarp was brilliant and ran his scoreless innings streak in district championships to 10 after earning the save in last year's 1-0 win. He struck out six and was outstanding under pressure. The senior improved to 8-0 and stranded runners at first and third with no outs in the fifth inning when Jersey Shore was clinging to a 1-0 lead.
"I'm a little nervous at first, but after the first inning or two I just settle in and it just feels like a regular game," Notevarp said. "It helps a lot knowing you can throw any pitch for a strike and that you have a defense behind you that can make all the plays."
The defense consistently made outstanding plays, including some game-changers. Shortstop Colton Potter threw out a runner trying to steal home in the fifth inning on a first-and-third pickle play and catcher Ryan Koch threw out a runner at third to end the third.
Freshman left fielder Boone Costa might have made the play of the night in the sixth inning, throwing out speedy Reynaldo Adames trying to stretch a leadoff single into a double. The only way Costa could throw him out was by making a perfect throw and that is what he delivered while helping preserve a 2-0 lead.
"I was just trying to get it in as quick as possible," Costa said. "All the plays we make are special to me and it was awesome."
"Big plays like that help us feed off each other," third baseman Kaiden Brungard said. "We try to make big plays and when someone makes a big play we try to go out there and feed off the energy."
Brungard delivered the team's only hit, belting a fifth-inning lea-off single. Milton starter Cody Shaffer was brilliant, but was done in by a defense that made five errors. The senior struck out nine of his 10 hitters in the first four innings but once Jersey Shore started consistently putting the ball in play Milton (15-5) was in trouble.
Pinch-runner Caleb Barnhart scored the game's first run when Costa hit a two-out grounder to second base that was booted. An inning later, Brungard led off with a single, moved to second on Blake Musser's bunt and scored on an error. Jersey Shore scored three more runs in the sixth inning as Brungard and Musser hit consecutive RBI groundouts.
Milton nearly went up 1-0 in the third inning after Taylor Porter and Adames singled. Porter tried to score from second on Adames' 1-out single but ran into Koch, who was trying to field the throw, before the ball reached the plate and was automatically out. Adames then overslid third and Brungard made a snap tag to end the inning.
Two innings later, Milton tried tying it 1-1 on the delayed double steal with runners on first and third. Potter threw a perfect strike to Koch who caught the ball and made the tag for the second out. Koch dropped the ball a split second or two later but umpires ruled he already had made the tag and lost the ball on the exchange from his glove to his hand.
"Milton is pretty tough," Brungard said. "We knew it was going to be hard but we played hard and came out and won and it feels awesome."