By John Knebels
Photos by Mike Nance & James Williamson
WARMINSTER – Ryan Kearney wasn’t perfect, but he didn’t have to be.
Instead, the Bonner-Prendergast junior was merely awesome, leading the Friars to a 7-1 victory over District 3 two-seed Wyomissing in the first round of the PIAA Class 4A baseball tournament on a hot, clammy Monday afternoon at Archbishop Wood High School.
Bonner-Prendergast will face District 1 champion Holy Ghost Prep 10:00 at Boyertown High School in Thursday’s PIAA quarterfinals.
“I settled in about the third inning, and from then on out, it was good,” said Kearney, the affable right-hander who surrendered five hits, one walk, and one run while striking out 10 over 6 1/3 brilliant innings. “We got five runs in the first, which is great for me, cause then I can relax and I don’t really have anything to worry about.
“You go day by day. If you lose, you’re out. Any of these games could be our last game, so we just go out there and try to win and give it everything we have.”
Before the Friars put up a five-spot in their half of the first inning, they had to escape an early Wyomissing threat.
Two infield errors had put runners at the corners with one out. After the first of Kearney’s 10 strikeouts, Wood escaped without any damage when an attempted steal of home by Wyomissing was foiled by fundamentally unblemished defensive execution.
“I think getting out of that helped get us going,” said Kearney.
Riding momentum, the Friars immediately unleashed an aggressive attack. With one out, sophomore Kevin McGonigle and junior Joey DeMucci singled, and junior Mike Anderson was hit by a pitch. One out later, freshman Austin Cannon laced a two-run single.
The seventh batter of the inning, junior Kevin Henrich, then tattooed a three-run bomb over the left-centerfield fence to give B-P an imposing 5-0 lead.
Henrich later delivered another homer in the sixth, a line drive that, as the saying goes, got out in a hurry.
“I had two strikes, and our team works a lot on our two-strike approach,” said Henrich, describing his first round-tripper. “Just being short to the ball and trying to put it in play. I got a hold of it. I really didn’t swing that hard, but I got the barrel on it and it went.
“The first one was on a curveball and the second one was on a fastball. It was high and I hit it pretty well.”
Bonner-Prendergast coach Steve DeBarberie could not have been much more pleased with how his all-underclassman starting lineup that includes five juniors, three freshmen, and one sophomore performed under such pressure.
“Getting five there in the first inning took a little weight off our chest,” said DeBarberie. “We were able to play a little bit looser, and Ryan Kearney was spectacular all day long.”
Getting out of the first-inning quandary appeared to instill confidence in the Friars, who from that point played error-free.
“Ryan just picked us up,” said DeBarberie. “That’s how it was all day long. Guys had a bad at-bat, the next guy picked him up. We made an error in the field, Ryan Kearney picked him up.”
Though the Friars were unable to duplicate their torrid start, they added runs in the third on an RBI by junior James Sousa and then Henrich’s second blast in the sixth.
“Kevin Henrich had a huge day at the plate,” said DeBarberie. “Then those two insurance runs were big for us.”
By the end of the day, two other PCL teams would advance to the quarterfinals while one would lose in heart-breaking fashion.
DeBarberie supplied a shout-out to his adversaries.
“Playing in the Catholic League definitely prepares us for games like this,” said DeBarberie. “Every game in the Catholic League is a big game, and our guys know that.”
WARMINSTER – Joe Cattie struck out with a runner on first base and two outs in the first inning.
The nerve . . .
Outside of that, the La Salle senior right fielder knocked in the first four runs of the game with a two-run double in the first and a two-run homer in the third, and his teammates kept right on hitting in a 14-1 PIAA Class 6A tournament first-round win over District 1 four-seed Hatboro-Horsham at Archbishop Wood High School.
The Explorers will take on District 11 champ Emmaus 1:00 Thursday in a state quarterfinal at Boyertown High School.
“Our team as a whole has had highs and lows the whole year, and there’s not one guy that’s done everything,” said Cattie, who also led off with a double and scored the first of a six-run fourth inning. “We pick each other up. Once you get momentum rolling, then everybody starts hitting.”
That certainly described the Explorers. Of their 31 batters, 20 reached base via 10 hits, seven walks, two hit batters, and an error. Factor in a sacrifice bunt, a runner getting picked off first base, and a sacrifice fly by senior Mason Sermarini (two runs scored, RBI), that means only nine batters were retired in traditional fashion – and two of those were on fly balls that advanced runners.
Not a bad day at the office.
“Everybody can hit,” said junior Jeph Hadson-Taylor, who from the ninth spot in the order went 2-for-2 with a double, two runs scored, and three RBI while simultaneously playing a superb third base. “Once the bats get rolling, everybody hits more. The top of the lineup got it started today, and then everybody else kept it going.”
In addition to the aforementioned offensive contributors, senior Jake Whitlinger (2-for-3, walk, 3 RBI), senior Justin Machita (three walks, two runs scored), senior Dan Wagner (two runs scored), junior Brian Baquero (two-run single), senior Nick Astolfi (1 for 2, RBI), senior Eric Shandler (walk, run scored), and Josh Mackunis (Astolfi’s courtesy runner who scored two runs) made life much easier for senior pitcher Ryan Marler, who allowed only three hits and one unearned run in four strong innings before giving way to freshman Cole Kochanowicz to mow down three straight Hatters in the fifth and end the contest by mercy rule.
“We’ve had some games where we hit the ball hard and they just didn’t fall, and sometimes it takes one ball falling to kind of open the floodgates and let that momentum turn,” said La Salle coach Kyle Werman. “Today that happened.”
Cattie’s two-run double in the first inning offset the aggravation of having a runner uncharacteristically getting picked off first base by Hatboro-Horsham’s left-handed starting pitcher Jimmy Tooley.
“Joe Cattie was fantastic today,” said Werman. “He smoked a couple of balls. We had a base-running miscue that started the game and that’s something that can kind of turn on you, and he does what he did. It takes that momentum right back and calms your dugout.”
It was a preview of things to come.
ERDENHEIM – After a bitter loss to La Salle in the PCL championship six days earlier, Archbishop Wood needed to re-group and establish a new goal – winning a PIAA state title.
So far, so good.
With senior Ryan Albin tossing an absolute gem, the Vikings blanked District 1 two-seed Oxford, 4-0, at La Salle High School and advanced to Thursday’s 4:00 Class 5A quarterfinal against Red Land at Muhlenberg High School. Over 6.2 innings and unable to complete the game only because of his pitch count, Albin surrendered only six hits and two walks while striking out. Junior reliever Connor Woodson struck out his only foe.
It was a great effort by our guys,” said Wood coach Jim DiGuiseppe, Jr. “We played a very clean game. We are excited to be moving on to the next round of states.”
Oxford only threatened twice, stranding the bases loaded in the second inning and two on in the fourth.
“I would never say things are working from the jump,” said Albin. “Each at bat is a new one. Nothing from the past at-bat has to do with the next man to step in the box. I continued to work ahead in counts, and that’s where success was found.”
Until the fifth inning, the Vikings could only muster one run courtesy of sophomore Joey Gale racing home on a passed ball. In the fifth, junior Mike Trommer blasted a one-out, first-pitch home run to double Wood’s advantage. Two more runs in the sixth deflated any remaining anxiety.
“I was going up to bat just trying to get on base so we could put some runs on the board and open the score up,” said Trommer. “I got a pitch I liked and put a good swing on it. The ball felt good off of the bat and kept going and got over the fence.
“With how our pitcher was throwing, the difference between one run and two makes a huge difference. But later in the game we added a couple more runs, which made the score seem extremely difficult to come back from.”
ERDENHEIM – Neumann-Goretti’s season came to an end, but it wasn’t from a lack of effort.
Playing at La Salle High School, the Saints fell behind District 3 two-seed Trinity, 4-0, after two innings. Behind strong pitching from relief pitcher Jayce Park (4.1 innings, 3 hits, 1 earned run, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts) and clutch hitting by eight-hitter Nick Micciche (2-for-2, walk, 2 runs scored) and nine-hitter Jimmy Gallo (2-for-3, 2 RBI, run scored), N-G tied the game with three runs in the fifth and one in the sixth before Trinity re-took the lead in the seventh and held on.
Less than two weeks earlier, the Saints dropped a bitter 3-1 decision to Archbishop Wood in the PCL semifinals in a contest that was shortened to five innings because of rain, thunder, and lightning.
“It has been a tough two years for us,” said Neumann-Goretti coach Mike Zolk. “Last year, we lost a season due to COVID. This year, our Catholic League season was ended due to a weather delay.
“As bad as that has been, I believe it made myself and each of our players better. We have dealt with adversity and heartbreak more than we would have liked, but the wins and losses do not define the type of program that we have.”
Zolk described NG’s program as a “place of brotherhood, passion, hard work, accountability and respect.”
“I think that our team demonstrated that on a daily basis,” said Zolk. “We played tough. We played with intensity. We played with class. Lastly, we played for one another. We played this way because we love the game, we love Neumann-Goretti and we love each other.
“As a coach, I can’t ask for much more. We have a great culture here at Neumann-Goretti, and I am so proud to be a part of it. We will be back in 2022 with a chip on our shoulder.”
(Contact John Knebels at Jknebels@gmail.com or on Twitter @johnknebels.)