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Pennsville's Shimp: One tough out

Trying to do less has yielded more for Josh Shimp. More line drives. More hits. More doubles. Especially more doubles.

Trying to do less has yielded more for Josh Shimp.

More line drives. More hits. More doubles.

Especially more doubles.

The Pennsville senior has been the hottest player on one of South Jersey's hottest teams.

Shimp, a second baseman, was batting .700 (21 for 30) with 11 doubles and 23 RBIs through Pennsville's first eight baseball games.

In those games, the Eagles were 8-0 and had outscored opponents by 99-4.

"I have faith in myself and faith in my teammates," Shimp said after a 4-for-4 performance on Wednesday against Clayton. "We're playing with a lot of confidence."

In that 15-0 victory over Clayton, Shimp rapped three doubles. He had 11 doubles in the first eight games, a record-setting pace.

That's no coincidence.

"The first two years he was here, Josh was trying to pull everything," Pennsville coach Matt O'Brien said. "This year, his approach has been awesome. He's using the whole field, going gap to gap, and it's paying off."

The South Jersey record for doubles in a season is 24, set by Gloucester Catholic's John Mader in 1992. The Pennsville record is 17, set by Lex Bleckley in 1981.

"When I'm up to bat, I'm very relaxed and focused," Shimp said. "I know I can hit the pitching. I'm not trying to hit home runs, just trying to hit the ball hard."

Shimp said he grew up in Pennsville and played Little League and Babe Ruth ball with many of his current teammates. He attended Gloucester Catholic as a freshman.

"It just wasn't for me," Shimp said of Gloucester Catholic, which features perhaps South Jersey's premier baseball program. "It was a long ride."

Shimp is part of a senior-laden corps at Pennsville. The Eagles opened the season with a 12-2 win over then-No. 1-ranked Gloucester Catholic - Shimp was 3 for 5 with two doubles and three RBIs - and won seven of their first eight by nine runs or more.

"We've been playing well, but these guys know the schedule is going to get tougher the second half of the year," O'Brien said.

Shimp hopes to travel south for college. He said he will make a recruiting trip in early May to Southern Wesleyan, a school in Central, S.C., that competes at the Division I levels of the NAIA and National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA).

"I always feel better when I'm down south," Shimp said. "It's just more relaxing to me."

The 5-foot-10, 180-pound Shimp had one home run in the Eagles' first eight games and says that if he "has the chance," he's not averse to turning on a pitch.

But his approach this season is to try to stay back and hit the ball hard in the gaps.

He said the best thing about this season has been the air of camaraderie around the Pennsville team.

"Everybody is getting along, supporting each other," Shimp said. "It's like we're a family."