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BASEBALL: PCL Facing Final Week, Several Possibilities Remain

By John Knebels, 05/10/22, 10:00PM EDT


Photos/Videos: Ryan Nix, Donna Eckert, Colleen Claggett, Kathy Leister, Lennie Malmgren, James Williamson, Mike Nance & Zack Beavers

By: John Knebels

PHILADELPHIA – With the last week of Philadelphia Catholic League baseball upon us, it’s time to take a quick glance where each squad stands.

Since six teams receive first-round byes, and finishers seven-through-10 compete in a one-game pre-playoff, only two teams have been officially eliminated from postseason possibilities.

As for those that have clinched, Bonner-Prendergast continues to plow through the competition. At 10-0, the Friars’ pitching and defense has performed at record levels. Having outscored the PCL competition by 101 to 8, and with seven total shutouts that include six of their past eight games, the Friars sometimes appear unbeatable.

MBAP's Kevin Henrich & Jaxon Kehoe talk about what has been attributing to the Friars success after win vs. St. Joe's Prep - PSD video by Zack Beavers

Bonner-Prendergast (13) vs. Archbishop Wood (2) - PSD Game Highlights by Donna Eckert from April 25

Seniors Mike Anderson and Kevin Henrich are both 4-0 in the PCL with earned-run averages of 1.29 and 1.11, respectively.

“From a defensive standpoint, I would say that our pitchers know they have a great defensive team behind them and everyone out there will do everything they can to help the team and keep runs from scoring,” said junior infielder Kevin McGonigle. “Us having seven shutouts and only six runs given up says that our pitchers are doing their jobs and our defense is always ready for the ball.

“Last year, we didn’t play the game the way we should’ve,” said McGonigle. “But this year, we are playing as a team. Our pitchers stepped up knowing that (injured senior standout pitcher Ryan Kearney) is out for the year. We’re taking things game by game and never looking too far ahead.”

Archbishop Wood (9-1) dropped a highly uncharacteristic 13-2 decision to Bonner-Prendergast. Two days later, the visiting Vikings rebounded to defeat Neumann-Goretti by an identical score.

Senior Sean Slowinski and junior Joey Gale supplied most of the fireworks, going a combined 6-for-8 with nine RBI, four runs scored, two doubles, and one home run apiece. Senior pitcher Mike Trommer allowed five hits and two runs and struck out seven, and he helped the offense by walking three times.

Wood senior Mike Trommer talks about the Vikings victory vs. Neumann-Goretti - PSD Video by James Williamson

"After our loss to Bonner, we regrouped and went into Neumann-Goretti and played extremely well,” said Wood coach Jim DiGuiseppe, Jr. “As a coach, after your team loses a difficult game, you're always looking to see how they respond. Our guys really did an awesome job of responding."

On May 3, Neumann-Goretti (8-2) trailed host St. Joseph’s Prep, 3-0, heading into the sixth. Senior Jameson Masino brought the Saints closer with a two-out, two-run double, and in the seventh, N-G tallied three runs on the strength of a hit-by-pitch, a walk, and a double play.

Neumann-Goretti vs. Archbishop Carroll Highlights by Ryan Nix:

Neumann-Goretti vs. Archbishop Wood Highlights by James Williamson:

Not conventional for sure, but the Saints got the job done.  

“Our bounce back win versus Prep was crucial,” said Masino. “We were pretty much just dead the for the first five innings and desperate for one spark of momentum to happen. We had the bases loaded with two outs and we scored two runs on a double, and that definitely gave us a chance.

“Momentum went our way and we had a great sixth and seventh inning on defense, which led to getting guys on base after great at bats, and we came out on top. We never had a doubt.”

La Salle (7-3) is the three-time defending champion, so every opponent still considers a victory over the Explorers as something special.

Two of the Explorers’ triumphs required resilience.

In a 6-4, eight-inning win at Cardinal O’Hara, sophomore Cole Kochanowicz kept the Explorers alive with four strong innings of relief, allowing no hits and one unearned run. In the visiting eighth, junior Tahir Parker (3-for-5) smacked a two-run single.

Two days later, the Explorers could not hold a 3-0, sixth-inning lead over Father Judge, and the contest went extras. In the home 10th, Parker led off with an infield single and two batters later scored on senior Brian Baquero’s walk-off single. Senior pitcher Kevin Kell surrendered only one hit and struck out 14 in six innings.

“The goal for our team from the beginning has been to continue to improve, learn how to compete, and peak at the end of the year,” said La Salle coach Kyle Werman. “I think we've shown we have the ability to handle some adversity, and those particular wins are evidence that we can compete at the end of ball games. We're still figuring out our team's identity, but I'm confident that we're heading in the right direction for this last stretch run.”

Archbishop Carroll vs. La Salle - PSD Game Highlights by Colleen Claggett:

Archbishop Carroll (7-3) has been the talk of the league. After a 4-9 season, the Patriots have emerged as one of the PCL’s best squads.

On May 2, the Pats stunned visiting La Salle, 10-0. They scored five runs in the first, two in the second, and then ended the game with three in the fifth. Roman Tozzi was outstanding on the mound, allowing one hit and three walks while striking out nine. Five different players provided RBI, with Sammy Benvignati leading the way with four on the strength of a double and home run.

Carroll had lost three of its previous four.

“I think that win really cemented us as a contender, not a pretender,” said junior Chris Tomlinson, who knocked in two runs in Carroll’s 5-4 win over Devon Prep Monday afternoon. “We have our goals and our group of guys know what we’re capable of. We’re going to keep working and have some fun while we do it.”

Archbishop Carroll vs. Roman Catholic - PSD Highlights by James Williamson

 Father Judge (7-3) dominated the opposition last week with a 10-0 win over Conwell-Egan and a huge 3-0, eight-inning victory at Neumann-Goretti two days later. They then started this week with a 6-1 win Monday at Lansdale Catholic.

In the win over Neumann-Goretti, sophomore Dave Rodriguez fired six brilliant innings of one-hit, no-run, 10-strikeout ball. Sophomore Tim Gress followed with two perfect innings, including striking out the side in the eighth. Junior Ryan Biener broke the scoreless tie with an RBI single, and junior Jaden DeLuca added insurance with a two-run double.

The Crusaders are 3-1 in one-run games, their only loss a 4-3 setback in 10 innings at LaSalle, heartbreaking since Judge lost a 3-0 lead heading into the sixth. Gress allowed five hits and one run in four innings, but that went for naught.

Father Judge pitcher John Westfield addresses victory vs. Lansdale Catholic - PSD Video by John Knebels

“Our last four games have definitely came down to pitching and our defense honestly,” said Judge senior pitcher John Westfield, who fired a complete game and allowed one unearned run in the win over Lansdale Catholic. “I think we have a great staff this year with David Rodriguez, myself, and Tim Gress. I think the guys behind us clean it up well, which helps us keep the games close. Our bats are starting to catch fire, as you can see with the win over Neumann Goretti. I think it’s going to be up from here for us.”

Roman Catholic (5-5) suffered a tough 3-2 loss at Father Judge, but the Cahillites bounced back to edge Cardinal O’Hara, 3-1, and Archbishop Ryan, 10-3, both on the road.

“As a team we have overcame a lot this season, but it has not stopped us from competing in most of our games,” said junior pitcher Tommy Flaherty. “We have some tough games to finish the season, but we know we can definitely win them. Once playoffs start, anything can happen, and we are confident in ourselves that we can make a deep run into the playoffs.

Lansdale Catholic (4-7) started the season 1-5 but then seized three straight, upending Conwell-Egan, Archbishop Carroll, and Archbishop Ryan.

In the 10-9 victory at Conwell-Egan, the Crusaders erased a 9-6 deficit by scoring four runs in the seventh, culminated by an RBI single by senior Ryan Martinez (3-for-5). Tommy Fitzgerald added two hits and three RBI, and pitcher Ryan Hanson tossed four shutout innings, giving up one hit and two walks.

“Starting the season, we were a more inexperienced team at the varsity level,” said senior shortstop Sean Martinez. “We’ve had our ups and downs, but that’s part of the learning process. At this point we’re really starting to come together and play as a team.

“We’re excited to get into the postseason. It means a lot to us as we’re building a program that’s consistently in the postseason every year. We’re really hopeful of what the postseason is going to bring.”

Devon Prep (3-6) used a solid stretch (5-1 win at Lansdale Catholic and 18-4 win over Conwell-Egan before a rugged 4-2 loss at Archbishop Wood) to remain in contention for a pre-playoff. The Tide pushed Archbishop Carroll to the limit on Monday before succumbing, 5-4.

“Our approach over this next week and a half is to compete,” said senior Jake Kenney. “It has been to compete every single game this season, which has shown as we have almost beaten two of the best teams in the state in Bonner and Wood.

“We obviously want to make the playoffs and are very capable of that. This next week and a half, we are going to put the best team out on the field that we can every game and take our best shot. We’re not going to blow any team out by 10 runs, but we are going to battle every pitch and be competitive from the first inning to the last.”

St. Joseph’s Prep (3-6) always seems to be in the middle of a anxiety-filled seven innings. Of the Hawks’ defeats, they lost 7-5 at Archbishop Carroll, 3-2 at Father Judge, and 5-3 against Neumann-Goretti despite leading 3-0 after five.

Among SJP’s key wins are a 4-0 shutout at Cardinal O’Hara and a 12-11 nailbiter over Archbishop Ryan, in which junior Marshall Grandizio (3-for-5, two runs scored, four RBI) tied the game with a one-out single in the seventh and scored the game winner on a sacrifice fly by senior Joe McGinnis (1-for-3, home run).

“The team has faced a lot of adversity this year, but we have a few themes and sayings we tend to come back to,” said senior pitcher Ryan Mullock. “All year, we’ve stressed the importance of staying together as a team. It’s hard to win games with a group of individual players. We talk about it constantly to stick together as a team, that we need our whole roster, top to bottom, to win games.

“Also, we talk about staying focused on our goals. Though we’ve had some tough losses, we are still in a position to make a push for the playoffs. At practice, especially, we make sure that the team is ‘locked in’ for the length of our practice. We believe that the level of focus and intensity are directly correlated to how successful we can be in the playoffs.”

SJP's Ryan Andrews keeps it simple, after loss to MBAP, saying the Hawks have to regroup before the playoffs - PSD Video by Zack Beavers

Cardinal O’Hara (1-8) is without question one of the best 1-8 teams in the state.

Among the Lions’ defeats: 2-1 at Lansdale Catholic; 4-0 against Archbishop Wood; 3-0 at Archbishop Carroll; 4-3 at Father Judge; 4-0 against St. Joseph’s Prep; 6-4 in eight innings against LaSalle; 3-1 against Roman Catholic; and then on Monday, a 5-2 loss to mega-strong Bonner-Prendergast, which had shut out six of its previous opponents and was outhit by the Lions, 7-5.

That’s eight losses by a composite 20 runs.


“We are a young team that battles,” said O’Hara coach Rob Benedict. “They work hard every day. We have been in every game due to our pitching and defense. I think our bats are starting to show life and our seniors are becoming a good influence. I’m seeing better approaches at the plate. I really like their energy and how they are ready to play every game.”

Archbishop Ryan (0-10) has two more chances to earn its first victory, starting with Wednesday at Conwell-Egan. The Eagles will also be searching for their first win.

The Raiders’ most brutal loss was a 12-11 decision at St. Joseph’s Prep in which they eliminated a 10-4 deficit with a seven-run rally in the seventh to take an 11-10 lead, only to give up two in the home seventh.

“This season has been a slight disappointment, but the team has a lot of upside to work with,” said Raider senior Mike Lentz. “We’re very young and they have the opportunity to make some noise next year. To finish this season with a win would be huge not for just me, but also for the guys next year and my coaches.

Cardinal O'Hara vs. Archbishop Ryan - Game Highlights by Krystal Williams

“When we get our first win, it’s gonna bring a great attitude to the team that hasn’t been there throughout the season. The morale of the team is great and the season has not turned out how I imagined, but the team shows up to work every day and my coaches continue to push us to get better every day and for that I’m thankful.

“The talent on the team is there; the mental aspect of the game is where I think the team struggles. We just need that one win to get it rolling and pick up the guys’ attitude. Me and the other seniors have tried to get the guys ready not for just this year, but next year as well. This is not the way I wanted to go out on my senior year from a record standpoint, but I couldn’t have asked for better coaches and better teammates to work with,” added Lentz.

Conwell-Egan (0-10) came close to nabbing a victory on April 25, but despite a strong effort by sophomore Jake McGuigan (3-for-4, two RBI), the Eagles could not hold a 9-5 lead after five innings and fell to Lansdale Catholic, 10-9.

The Eagles have two tries left to avoid a winless campaign for a second straight season. On Wednesday, they host Archbishop Ryan, which shares the same record as Conwell-Egan.

“We have a really strong core group of seniors who have been in this program for a while, and we want to be able to go out strong for us, our younger teammates, and especially our coaches who have stuck through it all,” said senior Mark Gorman. “We know we have the potential to win some of these final games of the season. The key is that we play a full game of clean baseball.

“As with the Lansdale game, we put together some strong innings, but we have to be able to finish out a game. We need to limit the mistakes and play like we know how all the way through the final out.

“As for Ryan, we need that win. It would be good most of all just for the morale of the team, to get some people excited for a change. I know Ryan is going to want it just as bad, so we need to come out with intensity right away.”

(Contact John Knebels at or on Twitter @johnknebels.)