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LaFiora strikes out 14, leads Neumann-Goretti past Dock Mennonite in PIAA-2A 1st round

WORCESTER >> Joe LaFiora struck out a career-high 14 batters and the Saints went marching on, beginning their state-title three-peat bid with a 7-2 win over Dock at windy Methacton High School Tuesday.

“From warm-ups, I felt really good,” said LaFiora, a Neumann-Goretti left hander who retired the first nine batters he faced in this PIAA-2A First Round Game. “I’ve been doing a lot of rehab and stuff, and that’s the best I ever felt — from the jump.

“My change-up was feeling really good, my fastball was live, and my curveball — here and there — was good. I felt like I had my best stuff today.”

The win advances the Saints to the state quarterfinals and a matchup with Schuylkill Haven on Thursday. Dock, making its fourth consecutive state tournament appearance (Class A in 2015, ‘16), finished its season 19-5.

“We had a little bit of a roller coaster ride at (the Philadelpia Catholic League Tournament). It was a tough one — we dropped the first game but we bounced right back,” LaFiora said of the District 12 Champs. “This was a good win for us. Momentum was on our side mostly the whole game.”

Saints Strike First

Before his left arm took over, LaFiora first used his bat to put his signature on the game, ripping a single up the middle off Pioneer right hander Mason Keller. That scored Colin Eiser (walk), and Goretti was quickly in front, 1-0 in the top of the first. The lead grew to 2-0 moments later when Billy D’Ambrosia’s RBI single scored Ryan McGettigan (walk).

The Saints widened the margin to 4-0 in the second, when Adam Jaep drew a walk and later scored on an error, and then McGettigan snuck a single through the right side of the infield, allowing Colin Eiser to race home.

The Saints put the game out of reach in the seventh, when D’Ambrosia came through with a towering double to deep center, clearing the bases for a 7-1 Goretti advantage.

Fisher Connects for Dock

Dock bats were silent until leadoff Mason Fisher provided a big thwack in the fourth.

After LaFiora stayed perfect through three, Fisher got a bead on a fastball and drove it over the fence in left, bringing the Pioneers screaming and shouting to within 4-1.

“It was 4-1, and we’ve come back before,” said Fisher. “We knew we could come back in this game. Unfortunately it didn’t work out today.”

True to form, LaFiora settled right back in and struck out seven in a row and eight of the next nine. For the game, the lefty went six innings, allowing one run off of one hit, with no walks.

“In games like that, especially a state game, you wanna be able to put an inning together to start building momentum,” Dock coach Jim Smith said. “You wanna be able to take that next step, take that momentum and ride that momentum to get past it and start putting runs on the board.

“I think we got the spark we needed, but things just didn’t fall our way after that.”

The Pioneers put something together in the seventh against right hander Aidan Baur. David Keller led off with a single, stole second, and then crossed home on a one-out, RBI double off the fence in left center by Brody Moyer, trimming the deficit to 7-2.

Mike Moyer drew a walk to give the Pioneers two men on, but then Baur got the two outs he needed.

“We’ve come a long way since the start of the season,” Smith said of the District One Champions. “We started around .500 for the year, through the first six games, then rattled off 13 straight wins after that.

“I’m proud of each and every one of these guys. We’ve made a lot of progress this year.”

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