TOMS RIVER, N.J. - Shawnee faced a hard-throwing obstacle in an attempt to win the Group 3 state baseball title, but give the Renegades credit for not complaining about a tough break.

The Renegades found the slider of righthander Brian Schroeder too difficult to hit in losing, 5-2, to JFK-Iselin in yesterday's state final at Toms River East.

Had it not been for some intervention from the rain gods, Schroeder would not have taken the mound yesterday.

The game was originally supposed to be played Saturday, but because of wet fields, the NJSIAA made the right call Friday in postponing all the state finals until yesterday.

Schroeder pitched 61/3 innings Wednesday, and under NJSIAA pitching rules, he had to sit out three full days.

With the extra day, he was able to go. Needless to say, he was ready.

Schroeder allowed five hits while striking out 12 and walking three.

It would have been easy for Shawnee to blame its loss on unwanted metrological patterns, but the Renegades took the high road.

"This is the way it's supposed to be with their No. 1 against our No. 1," coach Brian Anderson said.

Shawnee's No. 1 was Anthony Montefusco, who had been on a postseason tear. The George Mason recruit, who could find his name called in this week's major-league draft, had 28 strikeouts in his previous two games.

Early on, Montefusco and Schroeder were involved in an old-fashioned pitchers' duel.

"You want your best against their best," Montefusco said, echoing the sentiments of his coach.

Just because Shawnee wanted to beat the best doesn't mean the Renegades won't sometimes wonder what may have happened if Schroeder had not taken the mound.

"I don't know if it would have changed the outcome, but I know we had trouble with his slider," said Shawnee centerfielder John Montemurro.

While Schroeder was dominant on the mound until admittedly tiring and surrendering two runs in the seventh inning, he was also a factor at the plate.

Schroeder crushed a home run in the top of the fourth inning to break a scoreless tie, his ninth round-tripper of the season. After that, he was wisely intentionally walked in his final two at-bats.

What is interesting about Schroeder is that his future appears at the plate and possibly behind it.

Despite his 12-0 record, he was recruited as a position player to St. Peter's, and that position may be catcher. He didn't catch this season, playing shortstop when he wasn't pitching.

"I might pitch some in relief in college," he said.

Shawnee wishes he would have started that pattern yesterday.

Anyway, Schroeder's heart is in offense, not pitching. He pitched this season merely to help his team.

"I just really like to hit," he said.

As for getting the chance to pitch because of the soggy fields, Schroeder was happy to have the assignment.

"I was pumped, but if we used Joe we would have done well," he said, referring to No. 2 pitcher and shortstop Joe Marciano. "I did want the ball."

He showed how much he wanted it, making the most of a reprieve provided by Mother Nature.