carpentercup_275x44The Catholic League has struggled in recent Carpenter Cup tournaments, but in a first-round battle on Tuesday afternoon, the group of 25 players got off to a dramatic and positive start.

La Salle sophomore outfielder Gregg Sywulak delivered a two-run single past a diving third baseman in the bottom of the ninth inning, and the Catholic League emerged with a walk-off, 3-2 victory over Mercer County at South Philadelphia’s Urban Youth Academy Field inside FDR Park.

The Catholic League was scheduled to play Berks County 12:30 this afternoon.

“I wanted to make contact and put the ball in play,” said Sywulak. “It’s a great experience playing for this team and to get a big hit makes it even better.”

The Catholic League, a three-time Cup champion (1987, 1990, 2005) that had been eliminated in the first round for each of the past three seasons, entered the ninth with only two hits, one of them by Bonner-Prendergast senior Dan Goggin, an RBI double in the fifth inning.

Trailing 2-1 in the ninth, Neumann-Goretti senior Tommy Nardini led off with a double. One out later, Lansdale Catholic junior Nick Smalley laced a single and reached second on the throw back to the infield.

With runners on second and third, the folks from Mercer elected to pitch to Sywulak, and the outfielder made them pay.

“At worst you have to make sure to tie the game there,” Sywulak said. “I got a good pitch and put a good swing on it.”

Sywulak’s heroics were made possible by six Catholic League pitchers – Gino Tripodi (Neumann-Goretti senior), Bobby Lang (Roman Catholic senior), Billy Meyer (Conwell-Egan junior), Nick Bralczyk (Bonner-Prendergast senior), Ethan Pritchett (Neumann-Goretti junor), and J.J. Cicala (Archbishop Carroll senior) – who collectively allowed just six hits and four walks while striking out eight.

“They have a good lineup,” Cicala said. “I think we did a good job of putting ourselves in position to win.”

The Carpenter Cup players are competing within specific rules designed to encourage maximum opportunity. There are 16 high school all-star teams from Eastern Pennsylvania, Delaware and South and Central New Jersey. The 30-year tourney is highlighted by the final rounds being played at Citizens Bank Park, home of the Phillies, on June 22-23.

Of the 25 players on the roster, 21 must play in a nine-inning game; regular-season high school baseball games are halted at seven innings. Pitchers maximize their contribution at nine outs. Too, bunting is not allowed through the first six innings.


On June 12, Neumann-Goretti dropped a 9-0 decision to Neshannock High School in the PIAA Class AA baseball championship in State College.

The score was misleading. The Saints, playing in the state final for the first time in school history, trailed by only 3-0 heading into the seventh before a six-run explosion sealed their fate.

“This is tough to take,” said junior outfielder Brian Verratti. “I feel really bad for our seniors. They’re a great group of guys. Hopefully we can get back here next year and win it for them.”  

The Saints finished the season with a 20-5 record.


John Knebels can be reached at