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Refining the rally

It’s not over until it’s over.

That’s a lesson the Philadelphia Catholic League has embraced throughout this year’s Carpenter Cup Classic.

The resilient Catholic League squad — composed of the league’s top players representing Archbishop Ryan, Father Judge, LaSalle and Saint Joseph Prep, among others — retaliated in the most dramatic fashion to claim victory over Delaware County in the first round of the prestigious tourney.

It was a three-run homer off the bat of LaSalle junior third baseman Colin Pyne in the bottom of the ninth with two outs that lifted the Catholic League, 5–4, at Richie Ashburn Field on June 15.

Then, three days later, the Catholic League once again rallied in the ninth inning of the quarterfinals, this time eventually downing Chester County, 9–8, in 11 innings.

Let’s start at the beginning.

The Catholic League posted its first run of the Carpenter Cup Classic in the bottom of the third inning on June 15. Monsignor Bonnor’s Jim Murphy smoked a rocket down the first base line for a triple, then scored when Archbishop Ryan’s Eric Frain grounded out for an RBI.

“It felt really good to get that first run in there,” said Frain, a senior shortstop. “Today has been crazy. We felt strong coming in here and I think we played really well.”

The Catholic League knocked in another one in the fourth. LaSalle senior Joe Forcellini led off the inning with a walk, then advanced to second on a passed ball, then third on Mike Zolk’s (Neumann-Goretti) ground out. LaSalle’s Corey Baiada popped out for an RBI.

Delaware County answered back quickly. Dalton Mayberry smacked a triple to start the fifth inning, followed by a ground out RBI courtesy of John Brogan. One inning later, Matt Peters tied things up with an in-the-park homerun.

Despite loading the bases, Delaware County was unable to score a run, resulting in a scoreless seventh.

In the eighth, things started to go downhill for the Catholic League. Archbishop Ryan’s Kevin Mack walked Delaware County’s Justin Pyle, then two batters later, allowed a two-run out-of-the-park homer from Sean Mohollen.

Fast forward to the bottom of the ninth. Delaware County still leads 4–2. Baiada pops up for the first out, bringing Shane Williams to the plate. He smacks a single. Next up: Neumann-Goretti’s Jimmy Kerrigan.

Another single.

Marty Venafro (Neumann-Goretti) pops out to right field.

Delaware County switched pitchers — according to Carpenter Cup rules, pitchers are limited to three full innings — and as a result, Nick Kruzienski took the mound. His first pitch went wild, allowing Williams and Kerrigan to advance.

And so the stage was set — bottom of the ninth, runners at second and third, two outs — as Colin Pyne stood in the batters box. On the 2–0 pitch, he nailed a shot to left field that went through the legs of Delaware County’s left fielder, Drew Giampietro, and allowed Pyne to round the bases all the way home.

Final score: Catholic League 5, Delaware County, 4.

“My heart is rushing! That was exhilarating,” said an ecstatic Pyne after the win. “I was trying to hit the ball hard and find a gap in the opposite field. When I was rounding first base I saw the ball go through his legs, and I just kept running.

“This is unreal! It took me like five minutes to realize it was real,” he added. “Then it hit me like five minutes later. It’s a great feeling inside.”

The 25 players representing this year’s Catholic League, along with nine coaches, swarmed home plate as Pyne arrived. With the win, the Catholic League advanced to the Carpenter Cup quarterfinals.

“I feel good, real good. That was fun,” laughed the Catholic League’s head coach Lou Spadacini, also boss of Neumann-Goretti’s baseball squad. “I told the guys, this is the toughest three outs in baseball. Just keep battling. And they did. We didn’t put consecutive hits together until the ninth inning. I didn’t expect it to happen quite like it did, but I’ll take it!”

On Saturday, the Catholic League did it again — this time ousting Chester County in the quarterfinals. After six full innings, the Catholic League trailed 8–2. Their bats got hot in the seventh, scoring four runs. In the bottom of the ninth with two outs, they tacked on two more runs, tying the game and forcing extra innings.

By the 11th inning, the Catholic League had the winning run 90 feet away — Corey Baiada reached first on a badly played grounder. LaSalle senior Joe Forcellini bunted him to second and Shane Williams hit a single, allowing him to advance to third.

Once again, the stage was set for another thrilling victory. This time, the hero was Kerrigan, who nailed a single to right field for the game-winning hit.

The Catholic League’s heroics landed them in the coveted Carpenter Cup semifinals, played at Citizen’s Bank Park on Monday afternoon against foes Burlington County. Unfortunately, that’s where their fairy tale run came to a close. The Catholic League lost, 5–1, bringing the local baseball season to a close.

“The Carpenter Cup was a great experience. I love being able to represent my school. It’s exciting,” said Frain. “It’s a good time. I like playing with guys from all the different teams. We have a fun time together, playing and joking around. We all love the game.” ••

Sports editor Melissa Yerkov can be reached at myerkov@bsmphilly.com

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