He has batted only 10 times this season and usually does not play unless he is pitching.
And yet Tellef Notevarp likely is Jersey Shore's most valuable player. The Bulldogs are as complete as they are talented, but without Notevarp doing what he has on the mound, they might not be District 4 Class AAA champions for a second straight year.
In his final scholastic season, Notevarp has been brilliant. The senior right-hander is 8-0 with a 1.28 earned run average and has won a series of big games that puts him in the same class as past Jersey Shore greats like Eric Jarrett and Kyle Miller.
"When Tellef is out there we know he is going to do the job," third baseman Kaiden Brungard said. "He's a great pitcher and we're going to miss him next year."
Jersey Shore still has Notevarp this year and that is all that matters. He and his teammates meet District 2 champion North Pocono Monday at Bowman Field in the opening round of states. The Bulldogs (17-2-1) have won league and district titles in the same season for the first time and are hoping to make more history as they seek the program's first state championship.
These are the games for which Notevarp lives. The bigger the game, the better he seems to pitch. He proved that yet again last Wednesday, throwing a complete-game eight-hit shutout in a 5-0 district championship win over Milton. The Black Panthers (15-5) had won 12 of their last 13 games and threatened several times, but Notevarp never buckled. Whenever his team needed a big out, he was able to get it.
Even when Milton had runners on first and third with no outs in the fifth inning of a 1-0 game, Notevarp remained confident.
"Our pitching coach went out to talk to him and he said, 'Nobody is going to score,'" Jersey Shore coach Matt O'Brien said. "Then he goes and strikes the next kid out, induces a ground ball and we get out of it. He's a leader on the team and we feed off him."
Going back to last season, Notevarp has thrown 10 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings in district finals. He was outstanding in relief last season, earning the save in a 1-0 win over Selinsgrove. The senior missed most of last season but offered a peak of what was to come in 2012 with that dominant outing.
Eager to make up for lost time, Notevarp made an immediate statement, not allowing an earned run in 4 2/3 innings of the season opener as Jersey Shore trounced District 4 Class AA finalist Loyalsock, 12-3. In the next few weeks he added wins over Montoursville and previously undefeated District 6 Class AAAA finalist Central Mountain, allowing only nine hits in those complete-game performances.
A week later, Notevarp achieved perfection, throwing a five-inning perfect game against Selinsgrove. He struck out eight that day and threw only 60 pitches. Notevarp then snapped Milton's eight-game winning streak before throwing a complete-game five-hitter in a 5-1 victory over Montoursville that gave Jersey Shore the HAC-I title.
"He's our horse and he's worked so hard this year," O'Brien said. "Last year things didn't go his way and he's come back hungry. We follow him and he wants the ball at all times. He's a competitor."
Although he averages a strikeout per inning, Notevarp does not overpower opponents the way Jarrett did in 2006 and 2007. One does not need to do that, however, in order to be an effective pitcher. In fact, he has conducted a pitching clinic at times this season, consistently throwing strikes, working ahead, mixing his pitches and skillfully spotting them. Backed by a defense that has made tremendous strides that has been a winning formula.
Even if the offense is slow to get going, as it was in the final against Milton, Notevarp is the kind of pitcher that gives his team a chance to win every game.
"He's an absolute incredible pitcher," left fielder Boone Costa said. "He's the best pitcher I've ever seen."
Notevarp likely will start again at Bowman Field Monday. It is a field on which he has pitched some of his best baseball.
"We're solid 1-9," Notevarp said. "Anyone can come off the bench and play too and I think we have a good shot at it."
This is the kind of game Notevarp loves playing in. Jersey Shore is chasing history and it has the right player leading the way.