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Despite loss to Malvern, Cardinal O’Hara laying groundwork for tidy playoff run

MARPLE >> Nobody leaves until the field is fully manicured.

Staying late to work on the field isn’t on Cardinal O’Hara’s list of things it loves about first-year coach Tom Grandieri, the former Malvern Prep star — and Delco native — who has the Lions in the Catholic League playoffs Saturday.

After an 11-3 loss to Grandieri’s alma mater Tuesday, his players were left raking the infield dirt and mounds, chalking the lines, and so forth. O’Hara has one of the nicest diamonds in the county, and you can credit the players for keeping it in pristine condition.

“They like me for some things,” Grandieri said, “but they don’t like me for this.”

Grandieri, the 2006 Inter-Ac League Player of the Year who starred at the University of Penn, has preached teamwork in multiple forms.  

You could say the Lions have had a long row to hoe.

“We finished 7-5 in the Catholic League and four of those five losses were by one run,” Grandieri said. “Overall, we have a group that really competes and gets after it. Normally a coach would come into a situation like this and the team would be kind of empty, but we have a lot of talented players, young and old. It’s been a good season and I think we have a good shot to make some noise in the playoffs.”

The Lions have been led by seniors Brian Bromley, Eric Stewart and Isaiah Hammond, all of whom will play at Cumberland County (NJ) College next spring.

“We’re always in games and we’re always fighting,” said Bromley, the Lions’ go-to pitcher this season. “(Monday) was a good win (2-1 over La Salle), and we finally came out on top of a one-run game. We’re hoping to carry it into the playoffs.”

The Lions tuned up for the postseason against one of the top-five teams in the Philadelphia area. Malvern features a cavalcade of Division I commits, including senior catcher Shane Muntz (Wake Forest), who blasted a solo homer and threw out a pair of would-be base stealers. Another bright spot was Chris Newell, a Newtown Square resident and sophomore outfielder. Newell preceded Muntz’s dinger with a three-run bomb in the Friars’ six-run sixth inning.

Newell, who verbally committed to the University of Virginia, was a member of the Newtown-Edgmont 13-year-old team that won the Babe Ruth World Series in 2014.

“We treat every game like it’s a league game,” Newell said. “We are trying to get ourselves ready for the (Pennsylvania Independent Schools Athletic Association) tournament next week. When we get hot, the hits just keep coming. What I love about this team is you always know you’ll have someone behind you to pick you up.”

Jim Beaky was 3-for-3 and Dan Hopkins ripped a run-scoring double for the Lions, who play Bonner & Prendergast Saturday morning in the first round of the Catholic League playoffs

Under longtime coach Freddy Hilliard, a Delco League legend and Upper Darby All-Delco who played at Temple, Malvern has won at least a share of the Inter-Ac title in each of the previous six seasons. However, that reign of dominance will end this year.

In other nonleague action:

Interboro 2, Springfield 0 >> Brandon Welden tossed a three-hit gem over 6 2/3 innings to lead the Bucs to an impressive win over the Central League co-champions. Zach Halliday recorded the final out. Welden and Sean Flynn each drove in a run for Interboro.

Neumann-Goretti 7, Episcopal Academy 5 >> The Saints plated two runs in the bottom of the sixth to outlast the Churchmen. Isaiah Payton doubled and drove in three runs, while Cam Van Hoorebeke walked three times and scored a pair of runs for Episcopal.

In the Del Val League:

Chichester 7, Academy Park 0 >> Chi scored all seven runs in the top of the seventh inning, throwing gasoline and lighting a match on a pitchers’ duel between starters Andrew Rodriguez and Taylor Moors. Rodriguez went 6 2/3 with nine strikeouts before he was removed due to pitch count restrictions. He also was 3-for-4 with a double and an RBI.

Allan Ziccardi’s RBI single in the seventh broke the scoreless tie.

Moors’ six innings of shutout ball went to waste in the seventh. Moors was also removed after reaching his pitch limit.

In the Central League:

Upper Darby 3, Radnor 2 >> Randall Williams’ clutch two-out single in the bottom of the sixth drove in Drew Rhoton with the go-ahead run.

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