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Schuler pitches Pitman to crown

The senior worked a complete game as the Panthers shut out Whippany Park , 5-0, to win Group 1.

TOMS RIVER, N.J. - Their No. 5 hitter, no speed demon, beat out an infield single and scored the first run by escaping from a rundown.

Their leadoff hitter, no power guy, broke the game open with a two-run homer far over the left-field fence.

But one thing was typical for the Pitman Panthers in the Group 1 state baseball championship game: the superb pitching of Steve Schuler.

The senior lefthander worked a complete game, allowing seven hits with 13 strikeouts, as Pitman beat Whippany Park, 5-0, Saturday at Toms River East.

Senior shortstop Nick Capelli hit a two-run homer, and senior centerfielder Ryan Dill collected two hits, including an RBI single, as Pitman (23-4) won the first state title in the history of the baseball program.

"I couldn't even dream this," said Schuler, who finished his senior season with a 10-1 record and 109 strikeouts.

Senior righthander Matt Mantione struck out nine for Whippany Park (20-4).

Pitman had just one unearned run on one infield hit through four innings. But the Panthers scored two in the fifth on Capelli's no-doubt home run and two more in the sixth as junior Dylan Colgate rapped an RBI double and Dill added an RBI single.

That was more than enough run support for Schuler, who had at least one strikeout in every inning. Of Whippany Park's seven hits, two were infield singles, one was a bunt single, and another was a bloop single.

Schuler struck out the final batter in the fifth inning with runners on first and second. He struck out the final two batters in the sixth with runners on second and third. He also struck out the final batter of the game.

"With Steve on the mound, we have complete confidence," Colgate said.

Playing in its third state final, and first since 2000, Pitman was supported by a large cheering section that included around 100 students wearing bright orange T-shirts.

"I was feeding off them," Schuler said of the crowd.

Colgate, the team's burly, 6-foot-5 third baseman, beat out a slow grounder to shortstop for Pitman's first hit in the second. He advanced to third on a wild pitch and groundout, then scored when Whippany Park committed a throwing error on a rundown.

Colgate ripped an RBI double to the gap in right-center in the sixth. Pitman collected five of its seven hits and four runs in the fifth and sixth off the hard-throwing Mantione (7-1).

Capelli had the game's biggest hit, a first-pitch blast with two outs and Dill on base in the fifth.

"I wasn't trying to hit a home run," Capelli said. "It was a hanging curveball, inside."

Using a sneaky fastball as well as a biting curve, Schuler recorded six of his strikeouts in the final three innings.

"I really can't believe it," said Schuler, who plans to continue his baseball career at Philadelphia University. "Hopefully, it hits me on the bus ride home."

Pitman 010 022 0 - 5 7 1

Whippany Park 000 000 0 - 0 7 1

WP: Steve Schuler. LP: Matt Mantione. 2B: P-Dylan Colgate; WP-Matt Bizzarro. HR: P-Nick Capelli.