Their philosophy is almost too obvious, but truth is truth.
“We always say that, ‘Hey, we are here. We might as well win this thing,’” said Msgr. Bonner-Archbishop Prendergast High School junior Tim Dougherty. “So that’s what we are trying to do.”
Dougherty was referring to the 31st annual Carpenter Cup Classic, a showcase event sponsored by the Philadelphia Phillies. By virtue of defeating defending champion Suburban One National Tuesday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park, the Philadelphia Catholic League is only one victory away from seizing its fourth-ever title and first since 2005.
The PCL’s 3-1 semifinal win featured tremendous pitching, nearly flawless defense, a small-ball manufacturing of a lead run in the first inning and a huge, two-run single in the top of the ninth. The triumph placed the PCL in the championship Friday at 10 a.m. against Suburban One American.
Fresh off their PIAA Class AA state championship, the Neumann-Goretti combination of seniors Jeff Ciocco (three innings pitched) and Ethan Pritchett frustrated their Suburban foes with a composite five shutout innings. After Archbishop Carroll junior James Kelly, Roman Catholic junior Aidan Welch and Archbishop Wood junior Sean Hughes (three strikeouts) hurled one hitless inning apiece, Archbishop Wood junior Kody Cracknell survived a nail-biting ninth for the save.
“We used six pitchers and had one ready to go,” said PCL coach Joe DeBarberie. “I want to give everyone a chance to get in there.”
The PCL took a 1-0 lead in the first when St. Joseph’s Prep senior John Coppola’s sacrifice fly scored Roman Catholic sophomore Marquise Wood, who had led off, stolen second and advanced to third on a passed ball.
In the ninth, the PCL loaded the bases and with two outs, Dougherty slammed a first-pitch single to right field that scored Archbishop Wood senior Bobby Heck and St. Joseph’s Prep junior Jeff Manto.
The insurance runs seemed superfluous until Suburban One National threaded together three straight hits to score its first run. But on the third single, a Suburban One National runner ignored the third base coach’s stop sign and raced toward third. La Salle senior Langston Livingston fielded the ball on a roll and immediately fired a perfect bouncing strike to Bonner-Prendergast junior third baseman Evan Raiburn, who tagged the runner for the first out.
“I was just throwing to the lead base,” said Livingston. “I wanted to be aggressive. I was surprised that he went. I thought he would stay at second. When I saw him tagged out, it was a relief. It was a huge play.”
The PCL has been coming up with “huge” plays throughout the tournament: a triple play highlighted a first-round win; a pickoff at third base proved immense in the quarterfinal and the Livingston peg might have saved the semifinal win.
Far from lost in the post-game celebration was Dougherty’s two-run single.
“I wasn’t happy with my earlier at bats,” he said. “I was looking curve ball, put a good swing on it and got the fat part of the bat on it.”
Dougherty appeared unfazed as he stood at first base.
“I was just standing there and all of a sudden, I started taking it all in,” he said. “It was something I won’t ever forget.”
One more win, and he’ll have company in the “never-forget” department.
John Knebels can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.