During his ritual pre-game rest, Scott Shaw envisioned big things for himself and the Cherry Hill West baseball team.

He saw himself hitting a home run.

He didn’t see himself stealing one with a leaping catch-and-tumble over the fence in centerfield.

It was that kind of day for the Lions’ senior – one that even outpaced his imagination.

“This is one of the best moments I’ve ever had,” Shaw said after using both his glove and bat to spark Cherry Hill West to a 6-3 victory over Triton in the South Jersey Group 3 championship game Friday before a large crowd at the Mustangs’ field.

Shaw, a lanky left-handed swinger and Rider University recruit, drove an 0-1 curveball over the fence in right-center field with one out in the top of the seventh inning, turning a 3-2 deficit into a 4-3 lead.

Ryan West added an RBI triple and scored on Nick Sylvester’s third RBI of the game for a pair of insurance runs for Cherry Hill West (25-3-1), which captured its first sectional title since the end of the program’s glory years in 1993.

Cherry Hill West will meet Central Jersey champion Wall in Monday’s state semifinals, with the state finals scheduled for next Saturday at Veterans Park in Hamilton Twp.

“I’m so happy for these guys,” Cherry Hill West coach Dan McMaster said. “They worked so hard for so long and this is something they always will remember.”

The loss was devastating for Triton (20-4), which was seeking its first South Jersey title since 1970.

The Mustangs’ remarkable season had energized the school community and a large student section – including six shirtless guy who spelled out “T-R-I-T-O-N” in paint on the chests – filled the stands along the right-field line.

Cherry Hill West players, including Scott Shaw (center) celebrate after winning the South Jersey Group 3 championship with a 6-3 victory over Triton.
ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer
Cherry Hill West players, including Scott Shaw (center) celebrate after winning the South Jersey Group 3 championship with a 6-3 victory over Triton.

Triton was two outs away from its first sectional title in 49 years. But senior right-hander Colin Taylor, the Mustangs’ starter who allowed just three hits with nine strikeouts, reached the limit of 110 pitches in walking Cherry Hill West’s Tyler Kubrak with one out in the seventh.

“It was heart-breaking,” said Taylor, who left the mound and watched the visitors score four runs on the next four batters. “We just couldn’t pull it out.”

Players and coaches from both sides raved about the atmosphere at Triton’s old complex, with chanting student sections from both schools and hundreds of spectators ringing the field.

“It was crazy,” Taylor said.

Said McMaster: “What a great environment to play baseball. Their fan section was unbelievable.”

Cherry Hill West took a 2-0 lead in the first inning as Kubrak singled, Shaw walked, both advanced on Danny Berckman’s sacrifice bunt and both scored on Sylvester’s two-out single.

Triton rallied in the fourth as Tom Hughes, John Scarborough and Teddy Gorski singled to load the bases. One run scored on an infield error and the Mustangs took the lead on Jake Durham’s two-out, two-run single.

“Hats off to them, they really battled,” McMaster said of Triton.

Shaw made the defensive play of the game in the third, robbing Matt Woods of a home run with a leaping catch in the deepest part of the park. He crashed over the snow fence but never lost possession.

“I was running back in and I realized I still had the ball clenched,” Shaw said.

Shaw never imagined the catch. But he was day-dreaming about hitting a home run in the hours before the game.

“I visualized it,” Shaw said. “I was trying to take a nap and I visualized hitting a home run and helping us win.”

He said it looked great in his mind’s eye.

And even better in real life.

“It’s just amazing,” Shaw said.

Cherry Hill West 200 000 4 – 6 6 2

Triton 000 300 0 – 3 6 0

WP: Brian Robertson. LP: Matt Woods.

3B: CHW-Ryan West.

HR: CHW-Scott Shaw.