Holy Ghost Prep hoping to exact revenge against Devon

LOWER MORELAND — Holy Ghost Prep takes on Devon Prep this Monday in Bensalem for well, at least half the marbles. The only team in the Bicentennial Athletic League (BAL) to get past the Firebirds this season, the Tide must win to claim the BAL Independence Division trophy for themselves. Should Ghost avenge an 8-6 loss suffered at the hands of Devon in April out on the Main Line, the ‘ birds will split the title with Devon.

“It’s one of the best tuneups you can have heading into the postseason,’ said HGP assistant coach Vince Rossomando. “It will definitely have the look and feel of a playoff.’

And if that’s not enough to get the team ready for the postseason, Ghost travels to LaSalle this Saturday to take on the defending PIAA Quad-A champion Explorers.

The ‘ birds’ battle with BAL rival Lower Moreland Thursday afternoon (May 7) on the Lions’ home field had little in the way of a playoff feel. Though Ghost did not break the game open until past the midway point, it led from start to finish. A 9-1 triumph that favored HGP was indicative of two teams heading in entirely opposite directions.

With three games left, the ‘ birds are 15-2 overall, 12-1 in the BAL while the Lions fell to 3-14, 2-9 in the BAL. Already on top, 2-0, Ghost padded its edge when Jon Naylor raced home on a wild pitch with two on in the fourth inning.

The big hit in the frame came three batters later however. With two outs and the sacks jammed, senior Nick Payesko slapped a two-run single that put the ‘ birds up, 5-0.

“He’s been really crushing the ball. We (played) his hometown team Steinert two days ago and he went 4-for-4 with a home run and two doubles,’ stated HGP starting pitcher Nolan Jones.

“He was hot the beginning of the year and now, he’s getting hot again at playoff time so that’s a good thing to have.’

The most productive hit of the day came off the bat of Jones. With two outs and the sacks jammed in the fifth, the University of Virginia-bound pitcher slapped a bases-clearing double that put HGP up 8-0.

“We have four or five guys in our lineup that can clear the bases at any given time,’ said Ghost assistant coach Vince Rossomando.

Payesko’s single, his second run-scoring hit following his RBI double in the first inning that scored Jones, and the 3-run double by Jones followed a slew of free passes by the Lower Moreland pitchers, who walked six batters in the fourth and fifth innings, combined.

For the game, the Lions walked 15 batters.

“That’s the way it’s been all year,’ said LM head coach Dennis Murphy. “It’s the story of our season.’

“A walk is the easiest way to get on base so it really hurts,’ added Jones. “And it really brings the team down — they’re out there longer in the field, they put more throws on the pitcher’s arm and it really slows down the game.’

The ‘ birds tacked on another run in the visitor’s seventh on four more walks allowed by the Lion pitchers. For the game, Ghost recorded just five hits, though three of those were for extra bases.

“We really just had the big hit when there were runners in scoring position,’ explained Jones who registered the win after pitching three scoreless innings.

Free passes almost caught up with Jones in the very first inning he was on the hill. Indeed, the sacks were jammed with opposing baserunners with Eric Schwarz (walk) on first, Don Cataline (hit batsman) on second and Dicky Rhoads (E6) on third. With two strikes, LM outfielder Lance Goodman hit a rope that looked like it might make it out of the infield. Second baseman Ben Decembrino made a rally-killing stab of the ball, however, leaping up and to his left.

“It’s great to know that I have eight guys behind me who are always there to make the plays,’ said Jones. “It was low-and-outside fastball and he just got a piece of it.’

Outfielder Curtis Staropoli made a more impressive catch in the sixth inning though there were no runners on board when he made a diving stab on a sinking fly ball slapped to right field by Lions catcher Dylan Mood.

A great play in the field, yes, but Curtis has been making the most of his play this season on the mound. The only senior standout on the staff who isn’t committed to a Division I university, Staropoli is 5-0 on the hill for the Firebirds. Tim Brennan (St. Joe’s) is 3-1 while Jones (UVA) upped his record to 2-0 with one save. Luke Duris (Villanova), meanwhile, is 3-0 and Payesko (Rider) is 1-0.

It took Jones, Curtis, Brennan and John McCrane to combat Pennsbury through a 14-inning marathon May 2 at Ted Grabowski Field. In the end, Falcons leadoff hitter Pat Lawrence stroked a 2-run double following Tom Augustin’s game-winning single as Pennsbury went on to a 4-1 victory in HGP’s second loss of the season.

While that game was entertainment for the locals, the loss to Devon is what stung the most. The Tide tagged Brennan for six runs in the first three frames, forcing Ghost to play catchup in an 8-6 loss. Twice in those first three innings, the ‘ birds were just one strike away from getting out of jams with runners in scoring position only to see the Tide push the ball to the opposite field.

That makes Monday’s matchup all the more interesting.

Stay tuned.

NOTES: After stroking is second double, Payesko came home on Curtis Staropoli’s ground ball to short in the third inning. LM leadoff hitter Joe McCreesh broke up the shutout in the seventh. With a pair of runners on, he hit into a force at second base that scored Victor Tang.

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