John Knebels

The Philadelphia Catholic League lost in the first round of the 33rd-annual Carpenter Cup Classic June 13 at FDR Park in South Philadelphia.

The PCL’s 4-3 loss to New Jersey’s Tri-Cape received scant, if any, attention in local publications. It isn’t until the semifinals that pundits take notice, mostly because those four finalists enjoy the privilege of playing at Citizen’s Bank Park.

But some questions beckoned. Why were so many standout players, many of them All-Catholics, not on the original roster? Too much baseball already, since the season began in earnest on March 1? Better things to do? Lack of PCL camaraderie?

Several members who participated in the Catholic League’s first-round elimination proposed various theories as to why several players opted not to play.

“I think (baseball fatigue) definitely factors into their decision,” said Bonner-Prendergast sophomore Nate Furman. “One other major reason that comes to mind is senior week so a lot of guys don’t want to sacrifice that. If so, it’s such a special thing to represent your league and compete with and against great guys. The seniors have all summer and one week won’t kill them.”

Neumann-Goretti junior Eric Nardini said his Saint teammates “take it as a big deal to represent the Catholic League. We’re always showing that grit that most teams don’t really have.”

N-G junior Joe Messina admitted he was tired.

“I played this year for the first time and after pitching all year into the state playoffs I definitely felt some fatigue,” said Messina. “I think the same can be said for a lot of the other players as well.

“From the Catholic League standpoint, a lot of players did not come out and that can definitely be attributed to guys wanting a break after their teams’ playoff runs. I still thoroughly enjoyed representing the PCL this year, but I can definitely see that viewpoint.”

Still, said Messina, the PCL had a terrific chance to capture its fourth-ever Carpenter Cup Classic.
“It was disappointing,” he said. “We could have had a dominant team with all the talent this year.”

Father Judge senior Chuck Kelley said he did not hesitate to play. He certainly made the most of his effort, starting the game at pitcher and firing two scoreless innings.
“I think everyone who plays Carpenter Cup is fine because they’re used to ending the high school season and getting right into travel anyway,” said Kelley. “It’s a good way of warming up for summer ball and playing some great competition.

“It’s definitely a big deal to represent the league. It’s truly an honor and gives you an opportunity to play against guys you normally don’t get to play against.”

Roman Catholic sophomore Gaetan Grandelli admitted it was challenge.
“For guys like myself who hadn’t seen live pitching since the playoffs, it was hard seeing nothing for a couple weeks and then seeing 90-plus pitching at Carpenter Cup from every guy you face,” he said.

Most players downplayed the situation.

“I mean, we’re all baseball players,” said Archbishop Carroll sophomore Max Hitman. “We work out all winter so that we don’t fatigue during the spring and summer, so I don’t think our loss in the Carpenter Cup had anything to do with fatigue. I think they just had other things going on baseball wise.”

Added Tyler Kehoe, a junior All-Catholic pitcher and outfielder who did not participate: “A lot of guys were starting their travel ball circuits for the summer. I think it was some disinterest, too.”

Catholic League pitcher of the year Jake Kelchner of Archbishop Carroll said he “had to take a couple weeks off” before heading off to the University of Alabama where he will pitch, “and that is right now. I leave very soon and I am also going to Nebraska for the College World Series.”

One of the league’s best players who chose not to participate, La Salle senior Anthony Cossetti, said he and others meant no disrespect to the Catholic League, but they had to do what was currently best for them.

“Most players already had summer teams that they had to play for instead,” said Cossetti, who leaves for the Naval Academy this week. “For me, my summer was only 20 days long so I wanted to enjoy it before I ship out.”

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John Knebels can be reached at Jknebels@gmail.com or on Twitter @johnknebels.