RADNOR >> The new baseball field at Archbishop Carroll is a sight to behold.
AstroTurf. Scoreboard. Bullpens. It’s a state-of-the-art facility and a field of dreams for any high school ballplayer.
Carroll sophomore Tyler Kehoe will call those new digs home for three seasons. One of the top prep recruits in the country, Kehoe is the present — and future — of a program that is headed in the right direction.
The South Carolina commit was the offensive hero in Wednesday’s 1-0 Catholic League victory over Bonner & Prendergast. Kehoe’s clutch hitting was outdone only by senior ace James Kelly, who twirled a seven-inning gem. The Patriots (5-1, 4-0) have won five in a row since a season-opening setback to Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, and sit atop the Catholic League standings.
Kehoe ripped a 1-2 offspeed pitch from Evan Raiburn to dead center for an RBI double in the bottom of the fifth inning for the game’s only run.
“The wind here, it blows out,” Kehoe said. ‘So if you can get one up in the air, it’ll travel and keep going.”
Kehoe isn’t a guess hitter, but he knew what to anticipate against Raiburn, a finesse righthander who relies on command.
“He started me off with two breaking balls, then he threw me a fastball high. I knew he was going to come back with something offspeed,” he said. “Raiburn is the type of guy who relies on his breaking ball, relies on his changeup. His fastball wasn’t there today, so I knew it was going to come.”
Kehoe decommitted from Louisville in favor of South Carolina. Ever since he was a little boy, long before he was a driving force on Ridley Area Little League’s state finalist team, Kehoe wanted to be a Gamecock.
“After two years, I felt a lot of regret (committing early),” he said. “South Carolina has been my dream school since I was 5-years-old. I used to sleep with a Gamecocks blanket when I was little. It really hit me hard. I talked to my dad (R.C., the former Roman Catholic star basketball player and current head men’s coach at Holy Family) and i told him, ‘Hey, I got to go see South Carolina. It’s my dream school.’ He took me down there and I loved it. It was a great place for me.”
Mike Costanzo, the former major leaguer and 2002 Daily Times Player of the Year, who returned to Carroll to take the head coaching position, is building the program around young players like Kehoe.
“It’s how he goes about his business and what he does outside the lines, such as in the community and how he carries himself,” Costanzo said. “He’s a great kid, he’s a great student. Whatever he does do, wherever he goes in his baseball career, they’re going to be very happy to have him. Character-wise, he’s unbelievable. I keep forgetting that he’s a sophomore in high school. A lot of guys are like that here, too. That’s the culture of Carroll. It’s why I love being here.”
Kehoe, who plays summer ball for Georgia-based Team Elite Baseball as well as with Wayne of the Delco League, sees a lot of potential for this year’s
squad. Carroll has won a few close games against good squads, including a pair of 1-0 decisions over Haverford School and Bonner & Prendie.
“We have a group of guys who want to win. We had a bad year last year, an awful year, finishing in 10th place (in the Catholic League),” Kehoe said. “This year we’ve got some great guys coming in, some freshmen who have stepped up. The character on the bench is great. The guys who don’t get in the game, they keep us focused and keep the energy up. It helps a lot. We have the heart to win.”
Wednesday’s win was made possible because of Kelly, who threw a two-hit shutout with six strikeouts. Kelly leaned on a good fastball with late action.
“It was definitely the two-seamer, getting a little run on it, a little sink,” Kelly said. “I was locating it on both sides of the black.”
Kelly recently committed to La Salle.
“They’re a young team and they’re only going to get better in the future,” he said. “I fell in love with the campus. It’s close to home, too. I love everything about it.”
Kelly is a quick worker on the mound. He doesn’t mess around, and he attacks the strike zone. He knew Bonner’s bats would present a tall challenge.
“I knew they’re going to put up tough battles every time,” Kelly said. “They’re great at looking at pitches, being patient and just battling all the time. They’re not going to take anything and I’m not going to give them anything.”
James Kelly notches his 4th strikeout of the day. Carroll 0, Bonner 0, top 3rd pic.twitter.com/aZkSVzxUwJ
— Matt Smith (@DTMattSmith) April 12, 2017
Kelly had three one-two-three innings and needed only nine pitches to retire the side in order in the seventh. The Friars’ (1-5, 1-4) best opportunity to score came in the fifth inning when Brian O’Neill led off with a walk, moved to second base on a sacrifice bunt by Pat Lord and headed over to third on a flyout to right field. But Kelly got Nate Furman to hit a tapper back to the mound for the final out.
Colin McCormick and Dom Dellabarba each had a single for Bonner. Nick Argentieri singled, walked and stole a base for Carroll. Sean Lawley provided strong defense at second base.
In a pregame ceremony, Carroll retired the jersey of pitching great Jerry Oakes. A four-year varsity standout, Oakes was an all-state selection as a junior and senior, and still holds the school’s career strikeout record.
Oakes, who played in the minor leagues for seven seasons, was the first player from Carroll to be drafted. The Lansdowne native is the pitching coach at University of Pittsburgh.
“He’s a large part of baseball at Carroll and it’s only right to honor him like that,” Costanzo said. “He’s one of my best friends, too. It’s pretty cool. It was nice I got to pull him away from college duties. He’s very deserving of the honor.”
Elsewhere in the Catholic League:
Cardinal O’Hara 17, Bishop McDevitt 0 >> Junior Liam Nihill struck out 11 and allowed only one walk in a no-hit performance, the first of his career. Nihill needed only 62 pitches over seven innings.
Brian Bromley had three hits, including a triple, and three RBIs. Jim Beaky (double) and Pete Klein (triple) each had two hits and two RBIs, while Greg Manning slugged a three-run triple for the Lions (3-5, 2-2).
In the Inter-Ac League:
Episcopal Academy 5, Haverford School 1 >> Kyle Virbitsky did it all for the Churchmen.
The Penn State recruit hurled a complete game two-hitter with 11 strikeouts, and also hit a pair of homers and drove in all five runs.
Top photo: Bonner & Prendergast’s, right, Colin McCormick grounds out in the fifth inning of a Catholic League game against catcher Cole Chesnet, left, and Archbishop Carroll.