By John Knebels
Special to The CS&T

As various baseball players from the Catholic League were polled concerning their chances of winning the 24th annual Carpenter Cup Classic, a trend started to develop.

Their collective philosophy was to take things one game at a time.

Through the first two games of the 16-team, single-elimination tourney, that is precisely what the Catholic League squad did, and it served them well.

“There’s a lot of great competition here, so anyone can win this,” said Neumann-Goretti junior Mark Donato. “Every team presents a different challenge. You can’t look past anybody.”

After defeating Chester County 9-2 in the first round at the University of Pennsylvania on June 16, the Catholic League survived an 11-9 slugfest over Mercer County (N.J.) three days later. In a contest that resembled a simultaneous tennis and wrestling match, Donato became the second Catholic League participant to slam two home runs; one was almost Ryan Howard-ish, as its distance was measured at over 400 feet.

Against Mercer County, the CL needed every run it could muster. After jumping to a 2-0 lead in the first inning and adding four more runs in the third and another in the fourth, the CL watched a 7-0 lead dwindle to 8-4 in the seventh. A three-spot in the eighth increased CL’s lead to 11-4, but Mercer County answered with four runs in the eighth and one in the ninth.

But the CL was able to shut the door thanks to Conwell-Egan pitcher Kevin Cahill’s scary-but-efficient save, highlighted by his stranding the tying two runs in the ninth. Earlier, teammate Ryan Etsell of North Catholic had allowed only one run while striking out six in three strong innings.

Both pitching victories were earned by recent St. Joseph’s Prep graduate Kevin Gillen, who through two games and five total innings held the opposition scoreless.

“They have some tough lineups, but so do we,” said Gillen. “I just went out and threw my best and trusted my defense to make the plays.”

In the victory over Chester County, Gillen’s three shutout innings set the stage for the Catholic League offense that was paced by Archbishop Wood’s Brian O’Grady’s three hits and two runs batted in, and La Salle’s Tyler Freeman’s two RBI’s. O’Grady, Donato and Neumann-Goretti’s Al Baur each had two hits against Mercer County, and Neumann-Goretti’s Joey Armata contributed a two-run double.

So, through two games, the CL team that is trying to become a four-time tournament champion won by both blowout and nailbiter.

Like they said, one game at a time.

At press time, the Catholic League was playing Suburban One National/Bicentennial League in the semifinal game.

John Knebels can be reached at