Liam Newhouse thought coming into the season that the Crusaders would be a force in the Catholic League.
Then he went to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, with his teammates to start the season, and his prediction grew even stronger.
He knew the Father Judge Crusaders baseball team was for real.
“Definitely way before we started, I knew, even before our trip to South Carolina,” said Newhouse, the starting right fielder for the Father Judge High School baseball team. “Just the bond we had coming in, it’s been our goal to win the championship every year, and we fell short.
“Myrtle was the very start of the season. We lost our first game, we were up 6-2, we subbed out and ended up losing. Then we played two very good teams and we won. That gave us confidence coming into the year.”
That confidence has been snowballing since the Crusaders got back. Now, the bulk of the team has graduated, but instead of hitting Cancun or hitting Wildwood for Senior Week, they’re still Judge guys.
The Crusaders are two games away from a state championship after they knocked off Central Bucks West 1-0 in an incredible nine-inning pitchers’ duel. Dave Rodriguez showed why he is the best pitcher in the area, holding the Bucks scoreless for nine innings.
The Crusaders were slated to play North Penn on Monday, but nasty weather bumped the game to Tuesday, which was after the Times went to press.
It helps that Judge has one of the top pitching staffs in the area, coupled with an incredible lineup full of guys who can rake. The players also take a lot of pride in their defense, especially the outfield. The group, which consists of Newhouse, Jaden DeLuca and junior center fielder Richie Lee, is known as the no-fly zone for their ability to track down every fly ball.
But all of those things, while helpful, aren’t the reason the Crusaders are still playing meaningful baseball.
“I think the best part about this team is the chemistry,” said Newhouse, who lives in Morrell Park. “Our chemistry is through the roof. We do everything together. We just hang out, it’s the best chemistry. Some days we’ll be in school, where we’ll be together, have practice together, then after we’re done, we’ll either do some hitting or hang out at night. We’re with each other all day and all night, and we want to be together. We love being around each other.”
This run for Newhouse also proves he made the right decision about sticking with the game he loves.
Growing up, Newhouse played football and basketball. He did all three when he got to Judge, but stopped playing basketball after his sophomore year. He stuck with football a little longer, but for his senior year, he switched to just baseball.
It’s proven to be a great decision. Not only is he playing baseball next year in college, but he did everything he could to make sure he was ready for baseball season. It’s worked out very well for the program.
“I might not be the best player out there, but I’m always doing whatever I can to help, make sure everyone stays up and make sure we’re having fun,” Newhouse said. “It was hard giving up the other sports, I played varsity (in basketball and football), but I knew I wanted to have a good senior year.
“I guess it was a tough decision, my future was brighter in baseball. I knew we had a good team. Football is a hard sport, mentally tough, I wanted to focus on baseball. Playing football, you miss a lot of the offseason. But I have played since I was 4. It was a tough decision, but definitely a good one.”
Next year, he’ll do the same at Moravian University, where he’ll go in undecided, but is leaning toward majoring in something in the medical field. Physical therapy is an option.
He hopes to head to Bethlehem with a state championship. It would go very well with the Catholic League title he and his boys won a few weeks ago.
“Honestly, when we started playing this year, the thing we wanted was a Catholic League championship,” said Newhouse, who has 16 hits, 17 runs and 13 RBIs to his credit this year. “Now, that’s changed. We have played together our whole lives, so we want to play together as long as possible.
“It’s just a fun group. We work hard, but at practices, we’re just Judge guys. We’ll be hanging out, fighting about stupid stuff, we have fun at every practice, but when it’s game time, we lock in. We get our work done. We love having fun, but we take it seriously.”
That’s because they’re doing it together.
While Judge is in Holmesburg, most of this team comes from the Far Northeast, where they played together at Liberty Bell.
They’ve been best friends for as long as they can remember.
Two more victories, and it’ll be a day they’ll never forget.
“It feels not real, like it’s a dream,” Newhouse said. “After the PCL, it was over, and now we’re in another run. We have a chance to win a state championship. Not just history for Judge, history for our school. it would be a lot of history for the city. Just a group of guys from Northeast Philly who play together their whole lives. Now we’re trying to make history.
“It means everything, just playing for the school. Everything, playing for our boys, playing for the 27 (graduates who were killed in Vietnam), playing for our parents and playing for ourselves. We put in a lot of work. Long practices at Liberty Bell to everything we’re doing now. It’s kind of like a dream, what we worked for is coming true. Finally all the work paid off.”