Injury, fastball limited Staropoli’s recruitment opportunities

BENSALEM — With a plethora of pitchers in the lineup, Holy Ghost Prep (HGP) is picked to go deep into the postseason. Already, the Firebirds have captured their second District 1-AAA championship in the past three seasons with a 12-1 triumph over Sun Valley.

Starter Tim Brennan — who is headed to St. Joseph’s — got the win in the title tilt after tossing four-hit baseball through four innings. Junior Nolan Jones — who has a verbal agreement with the University of Virginia — retired the side in order in the last inning.

Ghost has two other pitchers going to Division 1 schools in Luke Duris (Villanova) and Nick Payesko (Rider).

However, the process that has sent four pitchers and outfielder Ryan Malloy (Lehigh) on to the next level has left one of the birds’ winningest pitchers — Curtis Staropoli, of Yardley — on the outside looking in.

The recruitment process eluded Staropoli — who was 6-1 on June 1 — for a couple of reasons.

First, his fastball was topping out a year ago at 83 mph and that’s not high enough to attract D-1 coaches, he says. Additionally, Curtis sustained a shoulder injury, forcing him to rest through a large chunk of the Philly Bandits summer showcase season when high-schoolers headed into their senior year receive offers. It’s probably no coincidence that all four pitching recruits play for the Bandits.

“It definitely didn’t help (missing the showcases),’ said Staropoli. “That’s when everybody else on the team committed during that period — which was tough.’

“It’s just one of those things.’

Staropoli still plans on going to college; he’s selected the University of Delaware as the place where he’ll continue his education. Curtis says he’s going to try to make it on to the Blue Hens baseball team as a walk-on.

“If things work out for him at Delaware — and I hope they do — they are getting one heckuva pitcher in Curtis Staropoli,’ said HGP assistant coach Vince Rossomando. “He’s been outstanding on the mound for us this season.’

In an effort to increase the speed of his fastball, Curtis lifted weights and also worked with velocity coach Chris Kurtz. He says his fastball is topping out at 89 mph this season. However, by the time Staropoli got his fastball up near 90 mph, most of the college recruitment money was gone.

“The combination of the injury and where I was as a pitcher wasn’t enough to get me to the commitment level,’ stated Curtis. “My fastball wasn’t where I wanted it to be at to be demanding looks.

“(Having a higher-velocity fastball) helps but by then, it’s the beginning of my senior season so it’s a little too late.’

Still, he’s gotten looks during his senior year from St. Joe’s and Delaware where he says he’s going. The Diamond State is where Staropoli wants to be for a couple of reasons. His father is a UDel alum and secondly, his grandparents live close by.

“I’m going to try to walk on there,’ said Curtis. “If not, I love the school and I’ll be fine with whatever happens.’

After capturing a share of the BAL Independence Division, the Firebirds topped No. 4 Upper Moreland, 14-2 before outpacing No. 7 Sun Valley 12-1 in the district championship. Staropoli didn’t get a chance to pitch in the D-1 title game, but he tossed a couple of innings and recorded the win over the Bears in the semifinal.

Also among his season highlights was getting the starting nod in the Ghost’s 7-6 win over Devon Prep May 1 at Ted Grabowski Field. On Senior Night, Staropoli tossed four scoreless innings before Tide catcher Dominic Hardaway ripped a bases-loaded double, sparking a 5-run rally by the visitors.

The ‘ birds — who also possess an explosive offense — answered with three runs in the home fifth and two more in the sixth to earn a 7-6 win and a share of the league trophy.

“Our plate approach has been really poised during the playoffs,’ said Curtis. “I’ve been on the team for three years and I’ve never seen a Holy Ghost team hit this well.’

In addition to having 15 players who are seniors, the ‘ birds have experience on their side as they move into states. Ghost opens PIAA play at 4 p.m. today (June 3) at Widener University vs. District 3 fourth-place finisher Manheim Central. At least half those seniors were on the team two years ago when the Firebirds defeated Upper Moreland for the D-1 AAA trophy then posted a PIAA win over Littlestown.

That season ended in a tough loss to West York which went on to win the state title. On the hill for Ghost in that game, limiting the opponent to just two runs on five hits in 6 and 2/3 innings was the righthander from Yardley, Curtis Staropoli.

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