After they won the Philadelphia Catholic League championship and before embarking on a PIAA state tournament, most of LaSalle’s players specified that one accomplishment had nothing to do with the other.

In other words, regardless of what occurred in the Class 6A post-season journey, earning the PCL crown would never be tarnished regardless of what the future held.

Of course, maintaining such a progressive, positive attitude is much easier said than done. Sure enough, after the Explorers experienced an excruciating 3-2 loss to District 3 champion Hempfield in the PIAA state final at Penn State University on June 13, not a single player felt much like talking. They needed time to heal, and that would begin with private grieving with teammates, coaches, family, and trusted friends.

Now that a week has separated the Explorers from the agony of defeat, a balanced evaluation has overtaken the initial raw emotion of personal anguish.

“There’s definitely still a little bit of disappointment, and I don’t think the loss will stop stinging for a while,” said senior catcher Kevin Schmidt, the PCL’s defensive player of the year. “The bus ride home was tough and, for sure, quiet for probably the first hour, but then we soon realized that it was the last time we were gonna ride the bus home as a team, so we made the most of it and appreciated the great year we had. It definitely took a couple days to get the disappointment out of my system, but now, I’m really just enjoying the accomplishments we had as a whole.”

Those “accomplishments” were highlighted by a 4-1 win over Neumann-Goretti on May 25 at Widener University that supplied LaSalle its fourth PCL championship in six years and a league-record 12th overall. In their three PCL playoff games, the Explorers outscored Archbishop Wood, Father Judge, and Neumann-Goretti by a collective 14-1. Then came an 8-0 win over Central in the District 12 final.

A District 12 top seed in the PIAA tourney, LaSalle defeated Plymouth-Whitemarsh, 7-4, in the first round. An epic 1-0 victory over Downingtown East in the quarterfinals necessitated 15 innings of shutout pitching by four hurlers – junior Jack Pye, senior Cole Kochanowicz, senior Logan Potter, and junior Chris Cavalcante – and escaping a bases-loaded, no-out situation before junior Aimon Chandler singled home senior Casey Nealon for a storybook finish and a trip to the semifinals.

After beating Hazelton, 10-4, the Explorers were one win away from joining alumni crews of 2012, 2014, and 2021 as state champions, but a three-run third inning by Hempfield proved to be one tally too much.

Contacted a week later, several Explorers shared their newfound assessment.

“Looking back on the season, there are many events that come to my mind,” said senior Matt Gannon, who went 6-for-11 in the tournament with six runs scored and two RBIs.

“Beginning with our winter workouts in the cold, all the guys showed how much this team meant to them, and it paid off. The hard work we put in in the offseason led to us having a good regular season and in position to have a good playoff run. We did just that. We were winning in the PCL playoffs and all of us were hanging out all the time. This led into the PCL ’chip, with us coming out on top. This was the highlight of our year. We were confident going into states and kept on going.”

“Our goal was to play together as long as we could, and we did just that. We won three big games with one of them being a 15-inning one. This game showed who we were as a team. We stuck together through adversity and we came out on top against some big-time arms. We got to the state championship, which not many people can say they have done. We fought back after being down early, but couldn’t complete the comeback. Still, that game doesn’t take away what we did the whole year. We were a tight group of seniors with younger guys right there with us. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of guys to spend this year with.”

Fellow senior Nealon will most be remembered for beating out an infield single that scored an insurance run in the PCL final.

“The loss will always sting and I don’t think that will ever go away with how close that game was and how we knew we should have won,” said Nealon. “However, after some of the emotions have left and time has passed, there is definitely an appreciation for the season. We got our main goal of winning a PCL championship, and that should never be overlooked with how difficult it is to win, along with multiple games that we will remember forever, like that 15-inning quarterfinal game.

“Looking back at the season, I wouldn’t change it for the world. Our tight group of seniors got even closer throughout the season and got to extend our time in high school together by another month. The memories created during that insane run will never go away, and I’m proud to cherish those for the rest of my life. It’s safe to say my final baseball season with my brothers was the best four months of my life.”

Senior Frank Provenzano knocked in two key runs in the win over Plymouth-Whitemarsh.

“To get that far in the tournament was awesome,” he said. “We expected that for ourselves. But we knew it wouldn’t come without work, and that is what I’ll remember. The process is where the success is. The results are just a byproduct of the process. Looking back, I couldn’t be more appreciative of this group. I think about our off-season workouts early in the morning, followed by a senior breakfast every Saturday. No matter what the result at Penn State was, that bond is there forever. One game doesn’t determine this group’s legacy. What it took to get that far was more important than if we won or lost that game.”

When he begins his career at Dickinson College, Schmidt will bring with him the mentorship that he provided to LaSalle’s pitching staff and underclassmen.

“Looking back on the season, I’m so proud of what we accomplished as a group, and I’ve realized that it all starts with a great group of seniors,” said Schmidt. “Our coaching staff told us all winter, ‘We only go as far as the senior group takes us.’ And that couldn’t have been any more true. We had a great group of senior leaders that took all of our young guys under their wings and taught them what a winning culture should be.

“As the season progressed, we kept on getting better and better and proved to everybody that our team was the real deal. Overall, I was super proud of our senior group and couldn’t have asked for a better senior season to finish my high school career.”

Honest perspective. The great equalizer.


John Knebels can be reached at or on ‘X’ (formerly Twitter) @johnknebels.