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Biener leaves Judge a champion

Ryan Biener helped Judge win a state championship. PHOTO: Dave Picariello

Ryan Biener looked at the move as a huge advantage.

And that’s exactly how it turned out.

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Biener is a senior on the Father Judge High School, and he came into the season as the starting first baseman.

The Crusaders had a very good problem. On top of Biener playing the position, they had a collection of other good players who could play the position. But the team needed a designated hitter.

“I was happy to do it, I didn’t mind at all, all I wanted to do this year was win, I would have done anything to help,” said Biener, who provided the Crusaders with a powerful bat in the middle of the lineup. “I just wanted a spot on the team, I wanted to be a part of it. First base, great. Designated hitter is great, too.

“It actually helped me. Before games, everyone is taking infield/outfield, warming up. I’m able to focus on my swing. Get extra time. I get my swing down, make sure I’m doing my job. I like to hit a lot.

“I’m a DH, so I get more reps in the cage. At first it was hard not playing the field, I had to get used to the feeling, I only have a few opportunities a game to show what I got. But we had a great team on the field and I was ready to do whatever I could to help. It worked out great.”

If you’ve followed the Father Judge baseball team, have been on any social media site, or driven around the Northeast, you probably know just how great it worked out.

The Crusaders won the Catholic League championship, the District 12 championship and then the state 6A championship. It’s quite a collection of trophies for a school that hadn’t won a baseball title since 2000. It was the first time the school won a state baseball title, and just the second team state championship in school history. It’s also the second team state championship for any of the Northeast Philly schools.

The entire state knew the Crusaders were a great team when the season ended, but the guys on the team knew this long ago.

“I would say going down to Myrtle Beach, that’s when we all knew,” said Biener, who grew up in Mayfair but recently moved to Morrell Park. “In the beginning of the season, we had a couple games down there. We lost our first game, but still, you can tell the team seemed really jelled together. It was a brotherhood, we all got along, the chemistry was there. After the third game, before we came back, you could tell we were going far. We believed it. I think we all knew we could have a fun year.”

Fun, yes.

But historic? Maybe not.

“I had no doubts, everything that happened this year we thought we had a great shot to win,” Biener said. “When things happened, I can say, after the PCL championship, everything caught me off guard. States is something that a team doesn’t do often. I think it’s our second championship in any sport. It’s a rare opportunity. It caught me off guard.

“I never thought we were going to not win, but you don’t expect to win a state championship. Our goal was the PCL. But after we won that, we just kept playing and winning.”

It was a great way for the senior class to end their careers. It’s the same class that were freshman when the COVID pandemic hit, so they lost a year.

They ended it by being celebrated by everyone in the area.

Now he’s celebrating those who helped him get him to the promised land.

“Our coaches deserve a lot of credit,” said Biener, who grew up playing for St. Matt’s and Liberty Bell. “Our (assistant) coach Barry Kneedler, he’s been with us forever. A lot of us played for him. He would stay out there with us for hours. He was always helping us get better, and we put in a lot of hours.

“Coach Metzger is great, he’s very down to earth. He’ll tell you if you mess up, but he’s the first to congratulate you. He (missed) a game during the season and when we got on the bus, he was the first one to text us.

“I couldn’t have done this without my teammates, and coaches. My parents, too. Just the hours driving me back and forth since I was 7 or 8. It’s a lot of money to send me where I went. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be in the spot. They’re a big part.”

The good news is they won’t have to travel very far to watch him play in college.

Next year, Biener is bound for Holy Family, which is very close to his home. He’ll be competing on the baseball team, which the school will have for the first time next year. He hopes to have the same support there that he did at Judge.

It’s a run he’ll never forget.

“I think it’s great, the support we got through the whole season for Judge, the alumni, graduates, everyone. I wasn’t expecting it. It felt like we were superstars for a few days. So many people watching (the state championship), bars hosting watch parties.  It was like we were superstars because of all the support we got.”

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