Archbishop Carroll had a solid baseball team in 2017. The Patriots finished tied atop the Philadelphia Catholic League standings with a 9-3 record and, after tie-breakers, were seeded No. 3 in the league playoffs. They were eliminated in the quarterfinals, losing to Archbishop Ryan in extra innings to end their season.
They had a good team returning in 2018, but a pair of additions took the team from good to great and helped earn the Patriots the No. 13 seed in the Reporter/Times Herald/Montgomery Media Baseball Team of the Decade bracket.
Jake Kelchner transferred from Spring-Ford for his senior season and Luke Sullivan joined the staff as pitching coach.
Kelchner finished the season with a 1.92 ERA and was named the PCL Pitcher of the Year. The senior left-hander struck out 74 batters in 47 1/3 innings. At the plate, Kelchner batted .373/.524/.656 with five doubles, three triples and two home runs while working 14 walks and scoring 16 runs.
Sullivan passed away in 2019. He was 42-years-old.
“(Sullivan) was a special man,” Carroll’s Tyler Kehoe, who was a junior in 2018, said. “I think he changed our program – him coming in changed it. We had a solid squad the year before – my sophomore year – but when Luke came and brought Kelch with him, I think him and Kelch were game-changers for us. The energy they brought, the knowledge of baseball that they brought, the love for the game that they brought over. If it weren’t for those two I don’t think we get as far as we do.
“Those two had a special bond. They were very much alike each other. They understood each other. Those two were special to us and helped us get to where we did.”
The additions helped Carroll finished 10-2 in the PCL, one game behind La Salle, and second again to La Salle in the league playoffs. They won the District 12-5A City Title over Boys’ Latin and reached the PIAA-5A state semifinals.
“It was a good group of guys,” Kehoe said. “We all had each other’s backs and we all had the same goal – it was to try to win a Catholic League championship and win a state championship and nothing less. Obviously we fell a little short of both, but that was a very special team and I think it’s one of the better teams Archbishop Carroll has ever had.
“It was a lot of fun. We were a group of kids playing the game we loved and all we wanted to do was win. That’s what we did. Obviously we fell short, but it was a great year and I’ll never forget those times with those guys.”
Another reason for Carroll’s success was the level of talent. Kelchner was committed to play at Alabama while Kehoe (South Carolina) and catcher Cole Chesnet (Penn State) were also committed to major Division I schools. The COVID-19 pandemic interrupted Kelchner’s sophomore season at Lackawanna College, Chesnet’s sophomore year at Rowan College and Kehoe’s freshman campaign at North Carolina.
Kehoe dominated on the mound in 2018, posting a 1.83 ERA. He struck out 45 batters in 34 1/3 innings to earn second team All-PCL honors. At the plate, he was named a third team All-PCL outfielder after batting .356/.446/.552 from the leadoff spot. He had eight doubles, three triples, a home run, 25 runs scored and 25 RBIs.
Chesnet was a second team All-PCL catcher. He batted .377/.474/.623 with 10 doubles, three home runs, 22 runs scored and 28 RBIs. Behind the plate he threw out four would-be base-stealers and picked off five base-runners.
“Outside of La Salle I think we had the best talent in the Catholic League,” Kehoe said. “I would say we were right there with La Salle, as well. I think if some people stay healthy we look a lot better in the Catholic League championship and I think we do alright going forward in the state tournament.
“There was a lot of talent and knowledge in the locker room.”
The Patriots biggest win of the regular season was a wild 5-4 victory over La Salle. Kehoe hit a two-run single to make it 4-2 Carroll in the bottom of the sixth inning and picked up the win on the mound in the top of the seventh.
In the rematch in the PCL championship game, La Salle won 10-0 in five innings. A slow start, a tired Kelchner and the determined Explorers kept the Patriots from hoisting the PCL plaque.
“Kelch was healthy (when we beat them),” Kehoe said. “He was 90-92 (miles per hour) and then in the championship game he was 84-85. When you give up seven runs in the first inning of a Catholic League championship, there is just no getting that momentum back, which I think was tough for us. We knew we could beat them going in and I think with a normal Jake, I think we beat them in the Catholic League championship and I think we go on to win the state championship.”
Carroll bounced back with a 15-0 win over Boys’ Latin in three innings for the District 12-5A City Title and secured a spot in states.
The PIAA-5A playoffs opened with wins over West Chester Rustin, 3-2, and Cedar Cliff, 7-2, before the season came to an end in the semifinals. Carroll lost, 3-2, to Lower Dauphin.
“(Kelchner’s) velocity wasn’t there (against Lower Dauphin) but he threw well,” Kehoe said. “He kept us in the game for a while then eventually I came in in the fifth or sixth inning. We lost by one. It was heartbreaking.
“They found a way to score one more run than us, which sucks, but that’s how the game was played.”
Carroll faces No. 4 La Salle 2012 in the first round of the tournament. Fan voting will decide the winners. Polls are posted on Twitter @ReporterSports.