Great pitching. A couple of walk-offs. Extraordinary defense. A few one-sided blowouts. The first week of Catholic League baseball had that, and more.
This year’s schedule is as organized as possible – league games every Monday and Wednesday. Undoubtedly, weather will wreak occasional havoc for athletic directors as they determine make-up dates. But so far, perfect spring weather provided two games for 11 of the 13 CL teams, and one game for two others, both of whom didn’t play because it was their bye week.
Here are some snippets …
At Archbishop Carroll, the Patriots are the early season’s version of the proverbial Cardiac Kids. In its opener, Carroll upended visiting Cardinal O’Hara, 4-3, in eight innings, for its first-ever victory on its gorgeous new playing field. With the score tied at 3-3 in the home eighth, the first three Patriots each drew a walk. After a pitching change, up stepped senior Kevin Downs.
After falling behind 0-2 in the count, Downs forced eight more pitches before taking a game-winning walk that scored junior Cole Chesnet with the winning run.
“My approach was simply to put the ball in play and make something happen,” said Downs. “I was fortunate enough to foul off some pitches and extend the at bat.”
On Wednesday, the Patriots defeated host La Salle, 2-1. In the top of the eighth inning, sophomore Tyler Kehoe was at first base when freshman Max Hitman – can there be a better name for a baseball player? – smoked a line drive that, combined with a throwing error, scored Kehoe for what amounted to the winning margin.
Senior James Kelly’s outstanding seven innings of pitching preceded senior Jack Houser’s eighth-inning save. Houser was the winning pitcher in the victory over O’Hara.
“I threw my glove on the ground right after we made the final out,” said Houser. “We played like a team. James Kelly threw a hell of a game. Couldn’t be any prouder of my boys after a win like that. We just gotta keep the train rollin’.”
St. Joseph’s Prep is off to a fabulous start. After beating Lansdale Catholic, 2-1, the Hawks eked out a thrilling 1-0, eight-inning triumph over Father Judge.
The pitching of seniors Colin Scanlon (4 2/3 innings) and Pat Woltemate (3 1/3) kept the Judge bats silent. In the bottom of the eighth, junior Luke Gutos smacked a no-out, game-winning double that scored junior Brandon Sanders and ignited a boisterous celebration. It was Gutos’ first-ever walk-off hit.
“It was awesome to see us grind out an extra-inning win,” said Gutos. “All week at practice we work on things to get us ready for games like that. All Catholic League games are gonna be tough, and we need to be prepared for more games like that in the future.”
Gutos was down 1-2 in the count and tried to remain patient.
“I knew I had to get wood on the ball to at least be a tough out,” said Gutos. “When I saw fastball, I knew it was a hittable pitch. When I saw Brandon cross the plate, I was excited that we got the win. It was a cool moment for sure.”
Woltemate lauded the Prep defense. He particularly praised junior right fielder Evan Matthews’ running snare of a Crusader shot in the fifth with the bases loaded.
“Our outfield made some great plays tracking down some balls that were hit really well,” said Woltemate. “It was an all-around team effort with making plays.”
Scanlon said the Hawks’ conviction continues to ascend.
“In the Catholic League, it can be anyone’s game,” he said. “Starting off with two in a row over two solid teams definitely gives us some confidence.”
Archbishop Ryan received three runs batted in by junior Robbie McWilliams in a 9-3 victory over Msgr. Bonner-Archbishop Prendergast. The Raiders then edged Neumann-Goretti, 3-2.
“Going into the (B-P) game we knew we had our work cut out for us,” said McWilliams. “All week long we practiced hard. During warm-ups on the day of the game, our coaches kept telling us that we were gonna win, and that gave the guys a lot of confidence.”
Senior winning pitcher Pat Reilly benefitted from a great catch by senior right fielder Dave Delvecchio in the top of the first, and the Raiders answered with two runs in the bottom half.
“The bench was up cheering for us the whole game,” said McWilliams. “It was a great team win.”
Against Neumann-Goretti, the Raiders trailed, 2-1, before senior Brian Yost slammed a two-run double to make a winner out of junior Brennan Hatala, who made the most of an emergency start by tossing 6 1/3 innings before sophomore Anthony Giordano mopped up in relief.
“My big hit wouldn’t have come along without my team getting me to that spot,” said Yost. “This game is a team sport. Our motto is, ‘Play hard; play Ryan baseball.’ We have the best coaching staff in the league. They push us every day to do better, and we are so much closer than we were last year to winning the Philadelphia Catholic League title.”
Roman’s Catholic’s opener was anything but close or tight. At Bishop McDevitt, the Cahillites scored early and often in a 15-0 victory. The trio of senior Marquise Wood, sophomore Gaetan Grandelli, and senior Shane Flaherty each knocked in three runs. Junior Joe Pizzo pitched three scoreless innings, allowing two soft singles before the mercy rule ended the contest.
“It was really important to start off the season strong,” said Pizzo. “It was definitely an honor to start off league play pitching for us.”
Wood has been looking forward to this time of the season ever since practice began more than a month ago.
“It feels great to be out there again with my teammates in league play,” said Wood. “We know every game is going to be intense, and we’re all excited to start the journey in which we hope ends in a Catholic League championship.”
Archbishop Wood trailed 2-0 before defeating visiting Conwell-Egan, 12-2, using a four-run third inning and an eight-run fourth to clinch a mercy-rule decision. Senior Mick Pristas knocked in three runs and had two hits, as did junior Dylan Slowinski and sophomore Sam Reynolds, helping make a winner out of senior pitcher Kody Cracknell.
Two days earlier, Conwell-Egan had stopped defending champion Neumann-Goretti, 3-1, behind 6 1/3 innings from senior Shane Souchuck. Senior Justin Porter recorded the final two outs for the save.
Cardinal O’Hara bounced back from an earlier defeat to blank Bonner-Prendergast, 2-0. Splendid hurling by junior Liam Nihill (two hits over six innings) and senior Isaiah Hammond (one-inning save) proved too much for the Friars.
In Lansdale Catholic’s 6-2 win over Roman Catholic, senior Ryan McSorley launched a three-run home run.
Next week’s schedule in Catholic League baseball includes (All games begin at 4 p.m. unless otherwise noted):
Monday, April 10: Archbishop Wood at Archbishop Ryan; Neumann-Goretti at Cardinal O’Hara; Bishop McDevitt at Archbishop Carroll; La Salle at Bonner-Prendergast; Roman Catholic at St. Joseph’s Prep; Conwell-Egan at Father Judge, 7 p.m.; Lansdale Catholic, bye.
Wednesday, April 12: Cardinal O’Hara at Bishop McDevitt, 3:45 p.m.; Bonner-Prendergast at Archbishop Carroll; Father Judge at La Salle; Roman Catholic at Archbishop Wood; St. Joseph’s Prep at Conwell-Egan; Archbishop Ryan at Lansdale Catholic; Neumann-Goretti, bye.
John Knebels can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @johnknebels.