Ryan Shinn played in 31 games for the Northern Burlington County baseball team this season.
It was the one game he missed that struck a chord with Greyhounds coach Rick Doppler.
"We knew for a long time that he wasn't going to be there," Doppler said of the May 16 game against Haddonfield in the quarterfinals of the Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic.
Shinn missed the game because of a family commitment. But he had a message for his teammates.
"He told our players before the game, 'You guys can win this without me,' " Doppler said. "That's the kind of leader he was." (Northern Burlington won that game, 6-4.)
Shinn is The Inquirer's South Jersey player of the year in baseball because he was a triple threat: hitter, pitcher and leader.
Shinn propelled Northern Burlington to the best season in the history of the program with a 27-5 record, Burlington County Liberty Division title, Burlington County League tournament title, Central Jersey Group 3 title, and berth in the Group 3 state title game.
"I couldn't be prouder of these guys," Shinn said of his teammates after Northern Burlington's 8-4 loss to South Plainfield in the Group 3 final last Saturday at Toms River North. "This season was one to remember."
Shinn, a Florida Gulf Coast recruit, said he prided himself on "giving 110 percent" every time he stepped onto the field.
A righthanded swinger who usually played the outfield when he wasn't on the mound, Shinn batted .489 with 13 doubles, 46 hits, 37 runs, and 29 RBIs. His on-base plus slugging percentage was a whopping 1.294.
As a pitcher, the lefthanded Shinn was 9-1 with a 2.52 ERA. He struck out 83 with just 17 walks in 691/3 innings.
Working on just two days' rest after throwing 53 pitches in the state semifinals, Shinn took the loss in the state championship game.
"He wasn't quite himself," Doppler said. "But he battled out there."
Shinn made no excuses.
"Give them credit," Shinn said of the South Plainfield team. "They hit the ball. They are a great team."
Shinn took a few lumps on the mound in his final game. But he also was 2 for 3 at the plate, with a double and triple.
"That's the kind of player he is," Doppler said. "He can help the team in so many ways."
Doppler said Shinn's maturity and positive example was the key to Northern Burlington's ability to bounce back from a disappointing end to the 2014 season and take the program to new heights in 2015.
"When he was younger, he let the seniors be the leaders of the team," Doppler said of Shinn. "But this year, he stepped up and set the tone for us. He led the way."
Northern Burlington was 7-12 when Shinn was a freshman playing for the varsity.
"I still remember that," Shinn said.
But over the next three seasons, the Greyhounds emerged as one of South Jersey's best programs, with records of 22-5, 20-7, and 27-5. Included in that run were a pair of Central Jersey Group 3 crowns.
"That's what I'm most proud of," Shinn said. "We kind of put Northern Burlington baseball back on the map."