Holy Ghost baseball kept off balance by Austen, Radnor in District 1 semifinal loss

MALVERN – When 20 combined runs are tallied in a high school baseball marathon that takes nearly three-and-a-half hour to complete, it’s tough to pinpoint exactly where everything unraveled.

When it gets right down to it, fifth-seeded Radnor got a better effort from its starting pitcher than did top seed and defending District 1-AAA champion Holy Ghost Prep. That and an 11-9 victory over the Firebirds (14-6) Thursday afternoon (May 26) at Great Valley are the reason why the Red Raiders are advancing to the D-1 title tilt on June 1 against Upper Moreland and Holy Ghost’s season comes to a crashing halt.

For Radnor (11-9), a team that competes against Quad-A rivals Marple Newtown, Conestoga, Garnet Valley and Strath Haven in the Central League, this is their first trip to a District 1 baseball championship.

“If you told me before the start of this game that we were going to score 11 runs against that team, I would have told you that you need to have your head examined,” said Raiders head coach Mark Jordan.

“We kept battling; we scored three runs in the last inning and we needed almost all of those runs to hang on.”

Radnor lefthander Andrew Austen – a senior with one arm who wasn’t even in the starting rotation at the beginning of the season – continued to impress, tossing 135 pitches over 6.2 innings. Austen wasn’t perfect; in fact, he walked nine batters. But he got key outs with runners in scoring position, which is what you need to win a ball game.

With two outs and the sacks jammed with Firebirds in the second inning, Austen induced a grounder to third base by HGP catcher Phil Stahl. With the count full, he got Stahl to swing at a high fastball with runners in scoring position to end a rally in the fourth. And he induced a grounder to second base by second baseman Sean Kerrigan, leaving a runner stranded at third base in the fifth. Ghost left nine runners on base in this one, six of them in scoring position.

“He did a really nice job,” said HGP head coach Vince Rossomando, of Austen’s pitching effort. “He was around the plate and he made pitches when he had to.

“We had a couple situations where we had second and third and two outs where a single changes the game and he made his pitches in those spots and got the big outs.”

Defensively, the Raiders did plenty to help themselves including a 3-6 doubleplay to end a potential rally in the first inning and a 5-3-6 doubleplay to end another threat by the ‘birds in the third inning.

Offensively, Radnor played like a team that knew it was going to need every one of those 11 runs to get past the Ghost. Holding an 8-5 lead entering the top of the seventh, the Raiders got RBI singles from Sean Mullarkey and Austen moments before scoring their 11th run on a double-steal, their third such run in the contest.

Turns out, Radnor needed just about every run it scored in the visitors’ seventh. That’s because, in the home half of the inning, HGP shortstop/pitcher Nolan Jones came up to bat with a pair of runners on and jacked one over the right field fence that drew the ‘birds within a pair of runs at 11-9. Julian Turner’s single gave the Ghost a chance to bring the tying run to the plate, but sophomore Pat Lofton ended the Firebirds’ hopes when he induced a grounder to short for the final out.

While Austen was busy recording his fifth win of the season, Birch struggled on the hill for Holy Ghost. The staff ace who entered the game with a 5-2 record and a 2.41 ERA, Birch walked three runners in the first inning then walked one and hit a batter in each of the next two frames before he was pulled with the sacks jammed in favor of John McCrane.

“He just didn’t have control of his fastball today,” said Rossomando. “He was one-oh on just about everybody and it got to the point where I had to pull him. He was just too erratic.”

“It’s unfortunate because he’s been great for us all year.”

All told, HGP pitchers walked seven batters and hit three others.

“We really shot ourselves in the foot today on more than one occasion,” admitted Rossomando. “We had to have given them 10 free passes between walks and hit batters.”

“When you see 11 runs put up, you’d think that this was just a slugfest. They had maybe two-hard-hit balls against us. But you couple the free passes with a couple errors and some mental mistakes we made out there – we just kept giving them runs and allowing them to tack on.”

That, the Ghost did.

The Raiders were already up 1-0 on an RBI single by left fielder Will Hoysgaard, when they pulled off their first successful double steal that led to a run with Martin Connor up to bat. Of course that could have been avoided had Jones turned the doubleplay ball tapped to short by the previous batter.

Radnor batted around in the third inning, scoring four runs on a hit batsman with the sacks jammed, a two-run single by No. 9 hitter Pat Scheri that dropped just inside the left field line and an RBI single that Connor Wilson slapped to center field.

When Jones came on to the hill in the fourth, he might have been able to register a scoreless frame, if not for an error at short. That led to another run scored on a double-steal and an RBI single up the middle by Pat McDermott that put the Raiders on top 8-4.

“Bottom line is this, as soon as we go down two-nothing and we’re able to battle back and make it a 3-2 game, that has to be it for the scoring for them,” said Rossomando. “Then, it’s our job to tack on.

“We just couldn’t hold a lead. We got a 3-2 lead and we gave it right back to them. Then we chip away to come back and we give them a couple more runs.

“I think it was an 8-5 game in the sixth inning. You hold them there and that seventh inning is a little bit different.”

Helping the ‘birds get to 8-5 were Stahl, who drilled an RBI single to center field that scored Jones in the first inning and Matt Lingerman, who slapped a single to right field that scored Owen Foraker in the fourth. Birch helped himself with an RBI double to left-center that scored Lingerman in the second and Sean Kerrigan’s grounder to second base gave the Ghost its first and only lead in the contest.

Unfortunately for the Firebirds, they couldn’t hold onto it.

Contact Steve Sherman at ssherman@21st-Centurymedia.com or @BucksLocalSport on Twitter

Radnor 11, Holy Ghost Prep 9

(May 26 at Great Valley)

RADNOR          204 200 3 – 11 9 2

HOLY GHOST 121 010 4 – 9 9 3

WP: Andrew Austen (5-0) 6.2 IP, 6R, 6H, 9BB, 3SO, 1HB; LP: Peyton Birch (5-3) 2.1IP, 5R, 2H, 5BB, 2SO, 2HB.

EXTRA-BASE HITS: HGP — Birch 2B, Nolan Jones HR; R — none.

RBIs: R — Pat Scheri 2, Connor Wilson, Andrew Austen, Will Hoysgaard, Pat McDermott, Sean Mullarkey; HGP — Nolan Jones 3, Phil Stahl, Matt Lingerman, John McCrane, Birch, Sean Kerrigan.

MULTIPLE HITS: R — Will Hoysgaard 2-for-3, Pat McDermott 2-for-4; HGP — Matt Lingerman 2-for-3, McCrane 2-for-3.

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