SPRINGFIELD TWP. >> Archbishop Carroll has the lineup depth to bury teams.
Time after time, the Patriots have shown they have a penchant for hitting in bunches and wearing opposing pitchers out. When they were locked in a back-and-forth affair with Cardinal O’Hara in Wednesday’s Catholic League semifinal at La Salle High School, there was little concern, if any, that the Patriots would find a way to outslug the Lions.
“We knew, that in addition to our pitching depth, that if it was a close game we would be able to open up the game a bit with our bats,” said Penn State-bound catcher Cole Chesnet. “We had the confidence we would get the job done in the end.”
Chesnet ripped an RBI double in the fifth inning to put the Patriots ahead for good, and Jake Kelchner followed with a majestic opposite field homer, paving the way for a 10-5 Carroll victory.
“You can see how close-knit they are,” Carroll coach Mike Costanzo said. In the dugout the players showed their dancing moves to the tones of“Shots” by LMFAO featuring Lil Jon.
“I mean, they like to have fun,” Costanzo added.
Well … they deserved to celebrate after Wednesday’s performance.
“We love it,” said Kelchner, the Patriots’ senior ace and Alabama recruit. “It’s been our song all season long. We’ve got to keep the tradition, you know, after every big win.”
All nine players in the starting lineup either reached base at least once, or made a productive out. Leadoff hitter Tyler Kehoe, who ate up 2.2 innings in relief of starter Alex Cornell, scored two runs. Max Hitman was 2-for-3 with an RBI single. Chesnet was 3-for-4 with the game-winning RBI double and a run-scoring single. Kelchner, the designated hitter, made hard contact in three at bats. His two-run homer was the back-breaker for O’Hara.
Moving down the lineup, five-hole hitter Chris Grill walked and scored a run. Dan Crossan, a slick-fielding third baseman, was 1-for-2 with a double and a pair of runs scored. Trent Pierce delivered a clutch two-run single in the fourth inning that, at the time, gave Carroll a 4-3 advantage. He also walked and scored a run. Steve Lawley had a sacrifice bunt and Pat Marley, from the nine-hole, had a walk in three plate appearances.
“The coaching staff and I preach that it takes more than one or two guys,” Costanzo said. “Today, it took 10, 11, 12 guys. I was a part of a lot of Catholic League championships here (three) as a player and it wasn’t just me and Frank Gailey, it took the effort of an entire team. That’s what it’s all about.”
After Carroll struck for three runs in the fifth, they tacked on three more in the sixth, aided by an O’Hara error. Hitman and Chesnet came through with back-to-back RBI singles.
Thanks to the late runs, the Patriots were able to preserve Kelchner, who threw less than 50 pitches in Monday’s 10-0 rout of Roman Catholic in the quarterfinal round. Kelchner will belocked and loaded for Saturday’s championship against La Salle at Immaculate University.
“I would’ve come in if it was close (Wednesday),” Kelchner said. ‘Since we got a couple more runs, they didn’t have to put me in. I’m just going to rest up for Saturday.”
Kelchner transferred from Spring-Ford after his junior year with the intention of helping Carroll to a Catholic League title. He’s one win away
from reaching that goal.
“It’s awesome. That’s the only way I can describe it,” he said. “This is the only reason I came here my senior year. I had full confidence in all of these guys that we were going to make it here. knew from day one of practice, that we were going to play for a PCL championship.”
To O’Hara’s credit, it never quit, even after Carroll went ahead to stay in the bottom of the fifth. They grabbed a 3-2 lead in the fourth when Joey Sperone hit a fly ball to right field. Grill made a diving attempt, but the ball got past him and rolled to the fence. Sperone reached third standing up and drove in Bryan Pazulski, who walked. Pinch-hitter Brendan McGroary then had a nine-pitch AB before lifting a sacrifice fly to right. Alas, Carroll responded with two runs in its half of the fourth.
“Brendan McGroary … that was his fourth varsity at bat of his career,” O’Hara coach Tom Granderi said. “We were pretty resilient for the most part. We ran out of bullets on the mound — they have a good lineup. We just couldn’t get the shutdown inning after we scored. They put up crooked numbers and we put up some singles. I thought it was a good high-level baseball game and we were just on the wrong side of it.”
Pazulski gave the Lions three-plus innings of relief. He battled, despite allowing seven runs (six earned) on four hits. Kehoe picked up the win for Patriots.
Nick Kutufaris was a sparkplug in the two-spot of O’Hara’s order. He was 3-for-3 with a walk and two RBIs. All-Delco Jim White singled and scored a run, while Sperone finished 2-for-3.