Cicala shut-down job sets stage for Catholic win

PHILADELPHIA — When Archbishop Carroll’s JJ Cicala took the mound for the ninth inning of the Philadelphia Catholic League’s opening-round Carpenter Cup contest Tuesday, the mission was simple.

With the Catholics offense in a holding pattern and the deficit seemingly locked at one, Cicala’s imperative was simple.

“I had to shut them down,’ he said.

Cicala did just that, pitching out of trouble to preserve that one-run margin, which La Salle’s Gregg Sywulak erased with a walk-off single in the ninth to earn the Catholics a 3-2 win.

Sywulak’s hit was just the Catholic League’s fifth of the contest. They entered the ninth with just two safeties, a total added to emphatically with Tommy Nardini’s gap-splitting double to lead off the frame. Lansdale Catholic’s Nick Smalley singled with one out and advanced to second on a throw to third, setting up Sywulak to greet new pitcher Ryan Kerbs (Robbinsville) with a single pulled down the left-field line that plated the winning run.

“With the new pitcher, I’m just trying to see the release point,’ Sywulak said. “I’m always looking to go the other way, but I saw the ball, I was on it and it just felt good to make contact and put the ball in play.’

The win advances the Catholics to Friday’s quarterfinals, where they’ll tangle with Berks County, 5-4 winners over the Inter-Ac/Independents. The game is at 10:30 a.m.

Prior to the ninth, the Catholic bats were dormant. They had only a double by Bonner-Prendergast’s Dan Goggin in the fifth that plated teammate Steve Furman (who reached on an error), and a single by Neumann-Goretti’s Vinny Vaccone to lead off the eighth that went for naught.

Despite the lack of offense, warding off frustration seemed easy.

“We’ve got a great group of guys, always loud, always up,’ Sywulak said. “It’s fun to play with them. This whole league is a bunch of loud guys, and it’s fun to play with them.’

The pitchers did their bit. Bonner-Prendergast’s Nick Bralczyk was on the hook for the loss for allowing an RBI single to Notre Dame’s Tyler Galazin that broke the one-all tie in the seventh, but he escaped further damage. NG’s Ethan Pritchett navigated out of a bases-loaded jam in the eighth after plunking three batters, and Cicala allowed a two-out walk and single before getting a pop out.

“You’ve just got to throw strikes in that situation,’ Cicala said. “You can’t let guys on base. I walked a batter with two out and you’ve got to just keep working.’

Also in the Carpenter Cup:

Berks County 5, Inter-Ac/Independents 4: Episcopal Academy’s Cam Van Hoorebeke drew the loss, allowing two runs (one earned) in two innings.

Haverford School’s Justin Meyer scored twice, while EA’s Kyle Virbitsky drove in a run.

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