NO ONE FELT the heat more than Pitman High second baseman Adam Satanoff during yesterday's South Jersey Group 1 semifinal game against visiting Pennsville.
Not because of the pressure of the game, although there was plenty of that to go around during Pitman's nail-biting, 3-1 win. Satanoff had to deal with a screaming sunburn that covered his back.
"I was out fishing on a lake here in Pitman on Sunday and I got sunburned pretty bad," Satanoff said. "But I just had to fight through it."
A pregame visit to the dugout by his father, lugging a huge bottle of aloe, was the right aid for the junior. Terrific fielding and timely doubleplays all game were the remedy for the Panthers and coach Gene Reid, as they will try to capture the sectional title at 4 p.m. Friday at No. 1 Maple Shade, which defeated Gloucester, 8-5.
"I told them that championship teams make championship plays when they count," Reid said. "They made great plays out in the field today. It looks easy when you do it right, but, oh, man."
Although the game breezed by in a little more than 90 minutes, it didn't lack more than a handful of key plays, most made by the Panthers in the field in front of a huge crowd.
Second-seeded Pitman, which improved to 18-5, scored twice in the first inning off Pennsville starter Keith Wilson, courtesy of some jailbreak running by leadoff hitter Nick Capelli. After Capelli opened the inning with a double down the rightfield line, Rob Cressman hit a bouncer to short. Capelli got caught in a rundown between second and third, and not only stayed in it long enough for Cressman to get to second, but also was able to take third when Pennsville blew the coverage. Jay Pogue then knocked in Capelli with a groundout, and catcher Kevin Gibbs, who was terrific behind the plate all day, drove in Cressman with a single.
"He threw me two curveballs to start off with, then he came inside with a fastball," the 6-3 Gibbs said. "I really didn't know what to expect, but I was able to get it out to left for the hit."
The top of the second for No. 3 Pennsville (16-9), which was looking for its seventh straight Group 1 title, was a sign of things to come. Dom Wyshinski led off with a walk, but got thrown out at second when he wasn't sure whether Ryan Karr's hit to right was caught. When the ump ruled it a hit, Wyshinski was already on his way back to first. Pitman rightfielder Trevor Headman easily got him at second. That was a huge play, as Lee Kite then followed with a double to right that moved Karr to third. But Cressman got the next two hitters to end the inning without any damage.
Pennsville cut it to 2-1 in the third on a sacrifice fly by Headman that scored Brett Burdsall (2-for-3). But its offensive woes continued in the fourth, when two runners were gunned down at third base on consecutive balls hit back to Cressman.
"I call him 'Disney,' because nothing seems to rattle him," Reid said. "He's just a great kid. It seemed like he started every inning with a man on first and no outs. But he has great composure and great confidence in himself and his teammates. He just kept letting them hit it and good things happened."
They sure did. After Pitman upped the lead to 3-1 on an RBI double to right-center by Satanoff in the fourth, Pennsville's luck really turned sour.
A leadoff baserunner in the fifth was snubbed out on a steal attempt on a strong throw by Gibbs. In the sixth, Cressman negated a leadoff single by Karr when he started a 1-6-3 doubleplay. Then, in the final inning with Burdsall on first with one down, Cressman got Terry Hogate to line out to shortstop Capelli, who threw to first to double up Burdsall and end the game.
"They were getting on base early in the innings throughout the whole game," said an obviously relieved Cressman. "We made some great plays on defense and everything seemed to go right for us. Everyone really played well behind me, and when they do that, it gives the pitcher a lot of confidence to let them hit the ball. That's what I did." *