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Holy Ghost Prep swats away rain, then Sun Valley to grab District 1 crown

ROYERSFORD — With Holy Ghost Prep’s District 1 championship battle with Sun Valley mired in a more than 90-minute rain delay, the boys who make up the Firebirds amused themselves with a game of two-ball and in several other ways.

Once the game resumed in the top of the third inning with Ghost leading 5-1, the boys got down to business, however. HGP starter Tim Brennan recorded the final out of the frame then the ‘ birds’ offense went back to work.

Seniors Luke Duris and Jon Naylor got on board on a pair of Vanguard errors, outfielder Pete Oline hit a ground ball that drove a run in but the big hit was an RBI double by senior Chris Pawluczyk, one of three run-scoring hits the catcher from Newtown recorded in the title tilt.

For the game, Pawluczyk hit 3-for-3 with two doubles, three RBI and a run scored, helping Holy Ghost (19-3) to a 12-1 triumph and its second District 1 crown in three seasons, its fifth overall.

“They fool around, they get goofy, and they go nuts but when they step between the lines, they really come to play,’ said HGP head coach Keith Smeraglio.

Having 15 seniors on the team will do that for a coach.

“With so many returning seniors, everyone felt that we needed to come out and win this so it was real big for us,’ said Pawluczyk. “We’re trying to take everything one step at a time. Step one was win the league. This was step two and step three is coming up.’

What’s coming up next is states, which begin Monday, June 1 against the District 3 fourth-place finisher at a site and time that is to be determined.

In the D-1 title game, Pawluczyk and his classmates made quick work of seventh-seeded Sun Valley (10-12). The top seeded Firebirds needed just 4 and 1/2 innings to dispose of the Vanguards in a contest shortened by the mercy rule Wednesday afternoon (May 27) at Spring-Ford High School’s Rams Stadium.

Facing LaSalle University-bound righthander C.J. Pruitt, Ghost sent 22 batters to the plate in three innings and change before chasing C.J. after he walked a pair of batters to open the fourth.

“I think we all handle good pitching well with the depth that we have on our own team,’ explained Pawluczyk. “This is what we see in practice all the time so it was nothing that we couldn’t handle.’

Trailing 1-0, Naylor scored third baseman Ryan Malloy with a ground ball to short to tie things up at a run apiece in the bottom of the second. Pawluczyk plated the next run — the winning tally — with a single to centerfield.

By then, the winds were stirring mightily and the skies were turning dark. When Nolan Jones’ pop fly to leftfield was dropped in the outfield, it left the junior fireballer standing on second base and Ghost on top by a 3-1 score.

A batter later, Brennan crushed a two-run double to the gap in right-centerfield that put the ‘ birds up 5-1.

Two outs into Sun Valley’s half of the third, the rains came. Both teams were initially sent to the dugouts, then had to retreat to the buses when lightning struck. Called back from the buses, the players had to wait even longer for the field to be treated.Still, the Firebirds kept their focus.

“They had a great approach at the plate and they made sure they put the ball in play when there was guys on third (base),’ said Smeraglio. “That’s something we’ve worked really hard on and it showed.’

“With the rain delay, it wasn’t easy,’ added Malloy. “But we really did keep our concentration — kept scoring runs and kept the focus on winning the game.’

With his team on top by an 8-1 score, Malloy stroked an RBI double down the left field line in the fourth, then Duris hit a slow tapper to third that put HGP up 10-1. A fly ball to center by Naylor and Pawluczyk’s second double of the day capped the scoring off at 12-1.

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