For the first time ever, Sacred Heart High has finished No. 1 in The Inquirer's South Jersey baseball rankings.
The Lions went 25-3. The highlight of their season came with a 6-5 comeback win over Shawnee in the Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic final.
Sacred Heart, which is located in Vineland, becomes the first Cape-Atlantic team - in either division - to finish No. 1 since the rankings started in 1980.
A small school - that is, one in either Group 1, 2 or Non-Public B - has finished No. 1 in six of the last seven seasons.
Shawnee, which went 19-3 and won the Olympic Patriot title, finished No. 2.
In the preseason, Shawnee was ranked No. 1, while Sacred Heart was No. 4. Seven teams that finished in the top 10 began the season either in the top 10 or under consideration. The exceptions: Lenape, Timber Creek and Cherry Hill West.
Sacred Heart, coached by John Triantos and champion of the Cape-Atlantic National II, put together some mind-boggling statistics. The Lions finished with a .380 team batting average and a remarkable .540 on-base percentage.
Ten of the Lions' regulars had on-base percentages between .478 and .612. The on-base leaders were designated hitter Dan Williams (.612), catcher Juan Velazquez (.593), second baseman Anthony Ramos (.582), shortstop Josh Moren (.562), leftfielder Isaac Gonzalez (.543), rightfielder Carlos Sepulveda (.540), first baseman/pitcher J.T. Triantos (.508), third baseman Jon Schmidt (.500), centerfielder Blake Cain (.495), and first baseman Chet Godfrey (.478).
Ramos (.474), Moren (.416) and Schmidt (.404, team-high 37 RBIs) were the top hitters, and Velazquez led the team in homers with eight. Ramos and Velazquez are juniors and should lead next year's team.
The pitching staff had four main contributors: Triantos (5-1, 1.84 ERA), Ramos (5-0, 1.87), Chris Fullam (6-0, 2.86) and Godfrey (5-0, 1.13), a talented freshman. The Lions finished with a 2.24 ERA and their pitchers struck out 183 while walking 82 in 1842/3 innings.
Repeat champions. Gloucester Catholic, which was cochampion (with Overbrook) in the Tri-County Diamond, has won or shared 13 straight titles in four leagues.
Shawnee has the area's second-longest streak, with five consecutive league crowns.
Feeling a draft. Even though they weren't selected as high as they had hoped, Shawnee's Quinton Miller and Mainland's Charlie Law were excited to be chosen in Major League Baseball's draft.
Miller went to the Pirates in the 20th round; Law was chosen by the Phillies in the 44th round.
The hard-throwing righthanders are expected to honor their college scholarships - Miller to North Carolina, Law to Rutgers. Both figured to get drafted early if they didn't have signing issues.
"The Phillies scout called and said he'll follow my progression this summer and then make an offer," said the 6-foot-7 Law, who was 5-0 with a 0.66 ERA this year. "It's just cool to be drafted by the Phillies. No one can take away that I got drafted by my favorite team."
The 6-foot-2 Miller (6-3, 2.13 ERA) said the Pirates told him they would negotiate with him shortly. Miller, who called it "a great honor and accomplishment" to get drafted, said it would take "second-round money" for him to bypass North Carolina.
Coach of year. The Inquirer will announce its coach of the year Sunday. Here are some of the top candidates, listed alphabetically: Jim Ambrosius, Williamstown; Dennis Barth, Gloucester Catholic; Mike Bylone, St. Augustine; Rocco Cornacchia, Clearview; Dave Dale, Haddon Township; Phil Fiore, Lenape; Chuck Marciano, Overbrook; Frank Torcasio, Timber Creek; John Triantos, Sacred Heart; Sam Tropiano, Bishop Eustace; Mike "Buster" Webb, Maple Shade; and George West, Buena.
Carpenter Cup. The Carpenter Cup Classic, which brings together area all-stars, starts today at the University of Pennsylvania, although South Jersey teams will not begin until tomorrow.
The Olympic/Colonial will meet Suburban One National/Bicentennial tomorrow at 9 a.m., with the Tri-County/Cape facing Lehigh Valley at 12:30 p.m.
Burlington County will tangle with the Philadelphia Catholic League on Wednesday at 9 a.m.