MEDFORD — The Shawnee High School baseball team entered the 48th annual Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic with a chip on their shoulder after missing the event a year ago.
The 2019 champ was eager to get on the court and prove himself.
There was one thing head coach Brian Anderson wasn’t looking forward to – removing senior Drew Uccello from the base paths.
Uccello is the most dynamic athlete on the team, Anderson said, but receivers aren’t allowed to run when there are two outs in the event to save time.
“I hate that rule,” laughed Anderson. “Don’t make me take it out. I never would. I would never take it out.
Anderson had to do it twice Thursday as Uccello drove in three runs with two outs and went 3-for-3 with 5 RBIs as fifth-seeded Shawnee shut out Pitman 12 10-0.
“We’re a hungry team right now,” Uccello said. “Not having succeeded last year put a chip on our shoulders. It’s a great victory, a great team victory.
Uccello played all spring with an added advantage.
The Bucknell rookie fell short of his own expectations last year and he entered the offseason looking for answers.
He altered where his hands were before the throw, went straighter into the box, and went with a simpler swing.
“Working the strike lines, the balls on the ground, keeping the ball out of the air,” Uccello said. “We know pitchers support us, so we have to do our part.”
Uccello is batting .458 with 22 hits, 3 doubles, 3 triples, 2 home runs, 17 RBIs and a team-high 22 runs and 7 stolen bases.
“He’s a lot more confident,” senior pitcher Dylan Terwilliger said. “Obviously the COVID year, the second year, neither of us had a lot of college experience last year. For him to come out and do what he did this year as captain, it really impressed me and he sets the standard for the rest of the team.
Bats stay warm
Shawnee has struggled in recent seasons to produce a consistent offense.
If Medford’s schedule can maintain its current pace, it will be tough in both the Diamond Classic and South Jersey’s Group 4 playoffs.
Shawnee scored 101 points during his 10-game winning streak.
“We had younger guys that we put in a bit before they thought they were ready (due to injuries to Griffin Burns and Erich Hartmann) and now I think they realize they belong” , said Anderson. “They are doing their part. (Michael) Pierson(Danny) Scullion and Reid Uccello, those three sophomores had a lot of good shots for us.
Pierson had an RBI against Pitman and leads the team with 21 runs. Reid Uccello had a hit and scored twice and Scullion added a hit and a run.
The vets have also been solid as Nick O’Brien also sees the ball well. Penn’s commitment was 2 for 3 with a brace and an RBI against the Panthers.
“They put the ball in play and make things happen,” said Terwilliger. “…If we can match (our hitting) with our throwing, I don’t know who’s going to beat us.”
Terwilliger had been penciled in as the starting pitcher for the Diamond Classic opener all week, but was scheduled to come out of the bullpen on Wednesday to close out a 4-3 victory over Cherry Hill East.
That didn’t faze him though.
The Massachusetts pledge got back on the hump Thursday and minded its business, pitching a five-inning shutout. He allowed just 3 hits (all in field singles), walked 1, and fanned 3.
“I wanted to be efficient, not put too much stress on myself and I made them put the ball in play,” said Terwilliger. “I trusted my teammates and obviously it went well.”
He only needed 60 pitches to get through the day.
“He gave us a great performance,” Anderson said.
Pitman enjoys the experience
The Panthers were making their first trip to the Diamond Classic since 2013and even though it didn’t end as they hoped, they took it as a learning experience.
“It means a lot to a small school like ours,” said head coach John Hopely. “I think they have 400 children per class, we have less in our whole school. These guys come out, they play hard, they try to win, the level of play is just a little above ours. We must dedicate ourselves to better drummers in the future.
Hopely praised starting pitcher Hudson Rue. The freshman fought for 3 1/3 rounds. He allowed 5 runs (3 earned) on 5 hits and 2 walks and struck out 2.
“You want to compete and we’ve done that for four rounds,” Hopely said. “(Rue) threw a great game as a rookie, coming here and trying his best. The best team definitely won. It’s a very good team on the other side.
Shawnee (15-3) is scheduled to travel to Williamstown on Friday and will visit fourth-seeded Kingsway in the Diamond Classic quarterfinals on Tuesday at 4 p.m. Pitman (10-3) is set to host Gloucester on Friday.
Josh Friedman has produced award-winning South Jersey sports coverage for the Courier Post, Daily Journal and Burlington County Times for over a decade. If you have or know of an interesting story to tell, hit us up on Twitter at @JFriedman57 or email [email protected] You can also contact him at 856-486-2431. Help support local journalism with a subscription.