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Catholic League Representation Alive and Well as PIAA State Tourneys reach Semifinals

By John Knebels, 06/11/23, 5:00PM EDT


PCL Baseball, Softball & Boys and Girls Lacrosse PIAA State Round-Ups

Photos/Videos: John Knebels, Kathy Leister, Donna Eckert & Jahmir Dunbar

By: John Knebels

PHILADELPHIA – The Philadelphia Catholic League continued its excellence outside of its own neighborhood.

Along with PCL programs still thriving in boys’ and girls’ lacrosse, three PCL baseball teams have advanced to the PIAA state semifinals. Each baseball program is trying to reach the state final for the first time in school history.

Now in its third consecutive state semifinal, Bonner-Prendergast defeated defending Class 5A champion Bethel Park, 3-1. Harry Carr was magnificent on the mound. The junior fired six shutout innings and struck out five.

Senior Kevin McGonigle was perfect at the plate. In four appearances, the PCL Most Valuable Player singled, doubled, homered, walked, scored a run, and knocked in two.

“Having experience is definitely something that will give you a better idea of how you have to go about the game, and I think since we’ve been in games like that all year, it wasn’t any different,” said Carr, a second-team All-Catholic. “I think the most important thing that led up to me being able to throw that well was the amount of rest I was able to have. Our pitchers have put us in position to win and have done a great job of getting outs, and that’s exactly what I was trying to do.”

The Friars will meet District 7 champ Shaler 3:30 Monday at Hershey High School.

Archbishop Wood used a six-run fifth inning to blow open a tight game and defeat Class 4A Montoursville, 9-1. Senior Dariel Tiburcio went 3-for-4 with three runs batted in. Junior Braden Kelly and senior Logan Pietrzak both knocked in a pair. Sophomore Mason Burlingame fired five powerful innings, allowing one run and three hits while striking out six.

“This was a complete team win,” said Wood PCL Defensive Player of the Year and first-team All-Catholic pitcher Joey Gale. “Everyone did their part and balled out, from our pitcher Mason Burlingame to our hitters one through nine all contributing to the win. I believe we’re playing our best baseball all year and prepare to go in on Monday and do the same thing we’ve been doing since game one of states.”

The Vikings will take on District 2 champion Dallas 4:30 Monday at DeSales University.

Archbishop Wood vs. Pope John Paul II - PIAA 1st Round Highlights by Donna Eckert

The Game of the Quarterfinals belonged to Father Judge.

With junior two-time PCL Pitcher of the Year David Rodriguez at his very best, the Crusaders outlasted Class 6A Central Bucks West, 1-0, in nine innings. In addition to throwing out a runner at home in the first inning, Rodriguez allowed only five hits and two walks, with 67 of his 101 pitches resulting in strikes.

“What a game,” Rodriguez said. “Central Bucks West was a really good team who had energy from the first inning to the last. But the Crusaders wanted it more. The game was a battle. The nine innings were crazy.

“Some innings I threw took five minutes, then others took 15. West is a talented team who can hit, and I just had to work around them with off speed pitches and work backwards instead of throwing the fastball constantly.”

In addition to senior iron-man catcher Anthony Jakeman, who braved through a very long afternoon and threw out a runner at second base in the fourth, Father Judge’s fielders frustrated Central Bucks West.

“I had confidence in my defense,” said Rodriguez. “They played lights out all game and had my back when I needed it, so if I got West to ground out or fly out, I knew those plays would be made.”

The Catholic League champion Crusaders broke through in the bottom of the ninth when senior Nick Shiffler led off with a line drive single to right.

Father Judge vs. Plymouth-Whitemarsh PIAA 6A 1st Round Highlights by John Knebels

After advancing to second, Shiffler scurried home on a one-out, walk-off infield single by senior Jaden DeLuca. Teammates Richie Lee and Ryan Biener both had two hits.

“I knew it was going to come down to me once Shiffler got on,” said DeLuca, a first-team All-Catholic. “I did my best to try and get him over to third and it ended up working out perfectly. Brooks (senior Brooks Henderson) talked to me right before my at bat and told me this was the game, and it all came down to that at bat.” 

The Crusaders will battle District 1 three-seed North Penn 3:00 Monday at Neumann University.

Despite outstanding pitching by junior Jayce Park, Neumann-Goretti was edged by Camp Hill, 2-0. Park hurled a complete game, giving up only two earned runs, five hits, and three walks while striking out eight.

“I’m super proud of my guys,” N-G coach Nick Nardini said. “We had a young team that was led by our lone senior (Yariel Rodriguez), who led us on and off the field each and every day. This team was so fun to be around each day and we’re going to really miss Yariel ‘NeNe.’ We will get back to work and look to make a run at this again next year.”


Two PCL softball teams also fell short of a semifinal assignment.

Archbishop Wood lost to Class 4A Montour by a misleading 5-0. Senior Dakota Fanelli surrendered only one earned run, four hits, and one walk over seven strong innings while striking out 12.

The Arcadia University-bound Fanelli finished the season with a school record 202 strikeouts and 449 for her career. The PCL Most Valuable Player also contributed one of Wood’s four hits.

“It is always a great privilege to play in states, and I know me and the rest of the team are glad that we got the opportunity to step out on the field those last two times and play together,” said Fanelli. “We played two very solid teams and we battled through both of them. Although the second game didn’t go the way we wanted it to, there are still positives to take away from it. For instance, (senior shortstop) Riley Nolan and (junior centerfielder) Parker Kraus locked it down on defense.

Archbishop Wood senior Dakota Fanelli #8 - PSD Photo by Kathy Leister

“Montour was a very fundamentally well-rounded team and it was an honor to play them my last game of high school. I am so proud of what my teammates and I have accomplished over the last four years. We grew together on and off the field and I couldn’t be prouder. With that said, I am very sad that it all has come to an end. I am going to miss Wood softball tremendously, but I will never forget the memories and the lifelong friends I have made.

“Big shout out to Coach Jackie (Ecker), Coach Maeve (McGill), Coach Sue (O’Neill), and, of course my teammates for making my four years at Wood amazing and helping me accomplish all my goals. Even though we all wish it wasn’t over, we know that we gave all we had during the game against Montour High school and the rest of the season. I couldn’t be prouder of everything we have done.”

Archbishop Ryan dropped a 12-2 decision against Class 4A  Northwestern Lehigh. One of the Ragdolls’ only two hits was a first-inning, two-run homer by senior Sabrina Pastino

“Obviously upset that my high school career is over,” said Pastino, a first-team All-Catholic. “It’s not grand when it ends on a 10-run rule, but that’s just how life plays out. Obviously it wasn’t ideal the way it ended, nor would it be for any type of senior in that position, but I’m proud of how far my team and I made it.”

Archbishop Ryan vs. Villa Maria - PIAA 4A 1st Round Highlights by John Knebels


In boys’ lacrosse, La Salle overwhelmed Class 3A Parkland, 10-1. The trio of junior Paul vanBastelaar (three goals), sophomore Max Wickersham (two goals), and senior Evan Golato (two goals) paced the offense. Whenever Parkland threatened, junior goalie Matt Nelson thwarted the attempts, finishing with seven saves.

“It was an awesome game to be a part of,” said Nelson. “From the first faceoff, we played great. Our offense had an awesome day. (Junior) Stevie Davis was an eraser at the faceoff, along with (sophomore) Christian Peterman. They gave Parkland almost zero opportunities to come back by winning almost every faceoff. Our defense did awesome to shut down some great Parkland offensive players.”

The Explorers will meet District 1 runner-up Radnor 5:00 Tuesday at Garnet Valley High School.


In girls’ lacrosse, defending champion Archbishop Carroll dominated Class 2A Gwynedd-Mercy Academy, 20-5.

Bleckley sisters Chloe (four goals, two assists) and Ava (three goals, assists) were among seven Patriots to tally multiple goals, joining senior Cate McConaghy, senior Machaela Henry, senior Lainey Straub, freshman Greta Potten, and junior Brooke Hippert, all of whom scored twice. Senior goalie Bridget Robinson made 10 saves.

“It is super exciting to come this far,” said senior Meg Sheridan. “My team works 110% at practice to prepare for these games, and the hard work is paying off.” 

Archbishop Carroll vs. Upper Moreland PIAA 2A First Round Highlights by Kathy Leister

The Patriots will face District 1 champion Mount St. Joseph’s Academy 3:00 Tuesday at West Chester Henderson High School.


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