PHILADELPHIA — Four batters into Friday’s Carpenter Cup quarterfinal, Chris Salvey had a chance to set the tone.
The Cardinal O’Hara designated hitter and cleanup man watched the Philadelphia Catholic League’s first three hitters reach on two singles and a walk, setting the table for the slugger. What ensued between Salvey and Berks County starter Nick Kuhn was an 11-pitch battle that featured a spray of five foul balls and ended with a Salvey free pass.
The kind of fight typified why the Catholics had the upper hand for most of the way, and it was Berks’ ability to shift that tide of momentum that earned it the come-from-behind, 10-inning victory, 7-4, to advance to Monday’s semifinals at Citizens Bank Park.
Salvey helped start the Catholic League on the right track as his walk led to three runs in the first. But the Catholic League left the bases loaded when Kuhn was replaced by Kutztown’s Aaron Kulp, who got consecutive meek popouts to leave Salvey stranded at third.
Salvey typified the Catholic League at its best Friday, battling through at-bats and working over pitchers to get on base.
“I was really just trying to stay back a little bit and hit it the other way,’ Salvey said of his protracted duel with Kuhn. “He was throwing me fastballs. I was a little early on them. It did a job.’
The Catholic’s other run in the sixth inning came when Neumann-Goretti’s Brian Verratti fought off four pitches and used the 10th offering of his at-bat to single home pinch-runner Jack Daywalt of Archbishop Carroll.
The Catholics had a chance to win the game in the top of the ninth, when another game at-bat by nine-hitter Ameir Uzzell of Conwell-Egan put a runner on base. Archbishop Wood’s Matt Cummiskey followed with a walk, but after a conversation at the mound, Twin Valley’s AJ Alexy induced consecutive flyouts to center to push the game to extra innings, just the 21st such game in the Carpenter Cup’s 30-year history.
Uzzell stood as one of the seven Catholic runners stranded, including five in scoring position. On a day when the Catholics were limited to four hits (two from leadoff man Vinny Vaccone of Neumann-Goretti), they needed to be much more precise in plating them.
In the field, too, the Catholics proved to be the authors of their own demise.
The 10th-inning debacle that handed Berks the win was furnished by three of the Catholic League’s seven errors, five of which belonged to fill-in third baseman Jeff Manto in just four innings. The killer came with runners on first and second and none out in the 10th when Archbishop Carroll pitcher JJ Cicala fielded a sacrifice attempt. Manto received the throw at third, but launched from the bag early to try to turn a double play at first, airmailing first base.
Instead of one out and two on, Manto got no outs and forced home two runs with another at third, leaving Cicala, who escaped a jam in the ninth to send the game to extras, just an RBI single by Twin Valley’s Coby Hiddeman from getting the hook.
The only reason the Catholic League was in position to push the game to extras, though, was another Delco pitcher, Bonner-Prendergast’s Dan Goggin. He entered a tumultuous game in the top of the sixth and provided a rare dose of calm with three scoreless frames. He tossed 1-2-3 innings in the sixth and eight and wriggled off the hook after two Manto errors and a walk loaded the bases with none out in the seventh.
“I was just trying to keep the ball low and roll ground balls, and it worked out for the most part,’ Goggin said. “I was trying to get them confused with the off-speed a little bit. Nothing special.’
Goggin pumped in first-pitch strikes to nine of 12 batters, and induced four ground-ball outs and two more that should’ve been converted.
That cooled the Berks bats that pounded the previous two hurlers in accumulating a four-run fifth. Roman Catholic’s Bobby Lang was chased after a double and an error to start the inning, making way for Bonner’s Nick Bralczyk. The Catholic League pitcher of the year was greeted rudely by a Derek Manning RBI double, and Hempfield teammate Nick Oberholtzer also split the gap for a double that plated two run to set the damage.
Despite that mid-game adversity that they’d found a way to overcome, the Catholic League left Richie Ashburn Field Friday feeling that they had squandered a chance to get to Citizens Bank Park.
“It’s tough, but we had all the faith in the world that we were going to win that game after that ninth inning,’ Goggin said. “We had a lot of momentum and had the guys on base and in scoring position, but it just didn’t work out for us.’
“It’s baseball. It happens,’ Salvey added. “You can always think about what-if, but you can’t. It’s baseball. It’s what happens.’