By: John Knebels
Photos/Videos: Kathy Leister, John Knebels & James Williamson
WARMINSTER – The threat of rain beckoned in the form of approaching dark clouds during the initial four and a half innings, and then in the fifth, drenching showers joined forces with high winds, periodic thunder, and intermittent lightning.
Not exactly the way Archbishop Wood and visiting Neumann-Goretti wanted to compete for a chance to reach the Philadelphia Catholic League championship.
But on Wednesday afternoon, fate smiled on the host Vikings.
With the score tied at 1-1 in the bottom of the fifth, a two-run double by junior Mike Trommer scored senior Ryan Albin and junior Aiden Myers – both of whom had started the inning with singles – to give the Vikings a 3-1 lead over Neumann-Goretti.
Before the game could continue, awful weather conditions compelled both squads to retreat to their respective dugouts. Unfortunately for the visiting Saints, over the next hour-plus, Mother Nature refused to be fair. After a series of sporadic lighting bolts – every time there is lightning, games may not begin for at least 30 minutes – umpires and officials from both sides concluded that the game could not continue.
Because the minimum requirements of at bats for both teams – five – had been completed, Archbishop Wood advanced to the Catholic League championship to meet La Salle. The game is scheduled for 12 noon on Sunday at Bensalem High School, though the daunting weather forecast may strongly suggests the much-anticipated battle between the PCL’s top two teams will probably be played next week.
“It feels amazing right now,” said Wood senior catcher Alex Neeld. “It’s a weird way for it to happen. This is not how we expected it. But we got there no matter what. That was the end goal. You just gotta win the game.”
The two-seed Vikings threatened early. In the first inning, six batters produced an unearned run, with an error scoring Albin from third. In the third inning, Wood left runners at first and second.
The third-seed Saints, however, were almost completely stymied by Trommer. The right-hander hurled perfect innings with four strikeouts in the first, third, fourth, and fifth innings. In the second, an RBI double by Damian Suarez scored AJ McGettigan, who had reached on an error and stolen second base.
“Trommer was lights out,” said Neeld. “He was just pumping the zone, dropping in curves. His changeup was on today. Everything was going in Tromm’s way. And he was able to deliver in the fifth.”
Trommer, who only threw 62 pitches and is therefore eligible to throw in the championship, seemed to take his outstanding performance in stride.
“Everything felt good today,” said Trommer. “We’re in the championship, and that’s been our goal all season. We are back to where we wanted to be. Our next goal is to win it.”
Explorers Nearly Perfect Behind Fast Start, Flawless Pitching
WYNDMOOR – Undefeated with a 13-0 record in the regular season, two-time defending champion La Salle will take an 18-game league winning streak into the final.
The Explorers, 43-3 in the PCL since 2018, used four pitchers to no-hit five-seed Devon Prep, 5-0, in their Wednesday afternoon semifinal. LaSalle has not allowed a run in the post-season, having blanked eight-seed Lansdale Catholic in the quarterfinals.
Junior Kevin Kell fired the first four innings and was followed by one-hit contributions from junior Emmett McLaughlin, senior Ryan Marler, and freshman Cole Kochanowicz. By only throwing 66 pitches, Kell is available to pitch in the championship.
“It's always great to be in a position to win a league title,” said La Salle coach Kyle Werman. “I'm excited for our kids who have put in the work and remained committed throughout all of the adversity of the last year.
“Wood has a great club, and it should make for a great championship game to showcase two of the top teams in the PCL.”
La Salle scored four runs in the first and one more in the fifth. Seniors Mason Sermarini, Joe Cattie, and Nick Astolfi notched RBIs. Astolfi and senior Eric Shandler both had two hits.
“My approach was just to go up there and do what I could for the team,” said Astolfi. “That first at bat with runners on, I just wanted to find any way to get them in and add on to the big inning we had. Later on in the game, I was leading off the inning and was just looking for a pitch I could barrel up, and I got it.”
On May 7 at Wood, the visibly frustrated Explorers and Vikings had to endure a struggling home plate umpire, who issued a ridiculous 20 walks. In La Salle’s 3-2 win, both squads combined to leave 20 runners on base. Wood rallied for a run in the seventh, leaving the bases loaded.
“We had a really good game during the regular season,” said Wood coach Jim DiGuiseppe. “It was certainly a battle up here. A very intense game. they came out on top during the regular season, and we’re obviously appreciate of having the opportunity to face them again.”
(Contact John Knebels at Jknebels@gmail.com or on Twitter @johnknebels.)