Pope John Paul II baseball takes control of PAC Frontier, unseats Phoenixville 4-1

PHOENIXVILLE >> While the job isn’t quite done yet for Pope John Paul II’s baseball team, Friday marked a chapter five years in the making.

The last time the Golden Panthers won the Pioneer Athletic Conference Frontier division was 2017. Since then, Phoenxville has run the table, winning the last four divisional titles (2018, 2019, 2021, 2022).

But with some late runs and a solid mound rotation between Aidan Sgarra and Blake High, Pope John Paul II defeated the Phantoms, 4-1 at Kennedy Field. With the win, the Golden Panthers (7-1, PAC Frontier, 9-3 PAC, 11-4 overall) reaffirm their hold of the top of the division and will clinch it with another Frontier win or Phoenixville loss.

The Phantoms (7-2 PAC Frontier, 9-4 PAC, 10-6 overall) must defeat Pottsgrove on May 8 and have Pope John Paul II lose its last two divisional games to claim the Frontier.

“We’ve been working hard for this the last, I’ve only been here two years, but we’ve been working hard for a while,” Golden Panthers third baseman Chase Frantz said. “I know Coach has been loving this. Great group of guys, we bond together and we play hard so it means a lot to this program.”

Frantz recorded the deciding hit in the top of the sixth inning. Tied 1-1 with two runners on base, Frantz roped a ball to center field, scoring Brendan Kenning and Billy Fitzgerald to take a 3-1 lead into the seventh.

Elon commit Hudson Narke struck out seven with four hits allowed, knocking down the order twice. But Frantz found his pitch and put the barrel on it, banking enough to go the distance on the play.

“I was just sticking to my approach and I hit a fastball. He hadn’t thrown me one all game,” Frantz said. I just needed to hit a fastball and I did. Everybody else in front of me came up big. Billy and BK got on for me and it worked out the way it did.”

Pope John Paul II third baseman Chase Frantz fields a ground ball and winds back to throw to first base against Phoenixville during a PAC Frontier baseball game at Kennedy Field on May 5. (Evan Wheaton – MediaNews Group)

Sophomore left fielder Luke Terlesky added an RBI single in the seventh inning, putting a ball in right field to score Jack Lockery and cap the scoring.

Following a stalemate two innings where not a single player reached base, TJ Boccella recorded the first hit of the game in the top of the third — and a big one at that. The junior right fielder sent a solo shot over the center fence to go up 1-0.

Boccella’s home run marked the 13th long ball of the season for Pope John Paul II, a team that’s made hard hits up and down its lineup all season, such as a Terlesky-fueled comeback against Methacton in extras and a pair of oppos from Kenning and Fitzgerald during the Golden Panthers’ last matchup against Phoenixville.

“It’s hard as heck to keep this lineup to four runs. PJP can hit the baseball,” Phantoms coach Geoff Thomas said. “Our guys need to get their groove back, get their swings back. We want to try and make a postseason run if the opportunity permits itself.”

Phoenixville, ranked No. 8 in District 1 Class 5A, made an immediate response to Boccella’s big knock in the bottom half. Dylan Antonini made a one-out walk before a strikeout from Sgarra. At the top of the Phantoms’ order, Narke (2-for-4, double) shelled one out to the center fence to bring home Antonini, deadlocking the game at 1-1.

The Phantoms were able to make noise throughout, recording five hits to Pope John Paul II’s seven while taking eight walks. But Phoenixville left 10 runners on base, unable to pad itself when opportunities were at hand.

“We needed a couple timely hits. We didn’t get the timely hits, they got the timely hits,” Thomas said. “The pitching today was phenomenal on both sides of the ball I felt. A lot of strikeouts, defense played fairly well on both sides for the most part.”

Pope John Paul II pitcher Aidan Sgarra winds back to throw against Phoenixville during a PAC Frontier baseball game at Kennedy Field on May 5. (Evan Wheaton – MediaNews Group)

The bottom of the seventh marked the return of Villanova-bound left Avery Schwartz, an All-Mercury first team selection last year. According to Thomas, the senior has been battling injury this season.

“When he threw against Methacton he had a tweak,” Thomas said on Schwartz, noting the game between the two on March 31. “He’s been doing physical therapy stuff and we want him to be ready for college. We want to put him in a good situation to pitch at the next level.”

Schwartz struck out one with one hit in his return on the mound.

Sgarra made eight strikeouts with two hits allowed in four innings for Pope John Paul II while High struck out two with three hits through the last three.

Given that a 10-1 lead was almost not enough during the last meeting between both programs — Phoenixville scoring eight in the seventh inning — Golden Panthers coach Charles Deluzio stressed painting the box and making routine plays, not getting ahead of themselves with a much smaller cushion than last time.

“We talked about limiting damage and throwing strikes,” Deluzio said. “If we throw strikes, we win games.”

Top-ranked in District 1-4A, Pope John Paul II has Pottstown and Upper Perkiomen slated on May 6 and May 8 respectively. A win in either game would secure the program’s first PAC Frontier title in six years.

“I’m pumped dude. It’s so fun right now. We circled this game. I mean we’ve still got work to do, we got Pottstown tomorrow and Upper Perk,” Deluzio said. “We still got work, but we’ve turned the corner. We can play with anybody, but we’ve got work to do.”

Results

Team1234567RHE
Pope John Paul II0010021470
Phoenixville0010000151
Pope John Paul II Phoenixville
ab r h bi ab r h bi
Dimaio 4 0 0 0 Narke 4 0 2 1
Brandt 4 0 1 0 Bull 2 0 0 0
Kenning 2 1 0 0 Nattle 3 0 1 0
Fitzgerald 3 1 0 0 Carruthers 4 0 1 0
Frantz 3 0 1 2 Coupe 3 0 0 0
Sarmento 0 0 0 0 A. Schwrtz 2 0 0 0
Diaddezio 3 0 1 0 B. Schwrtz 1 0 0 0
Simeone 2 0 1 0 Marsh 2 0 0 0
Boccella 3 1 2 1 Antonini 1 1 1 0
Terlesky 3 0 1 1 Straight 2 0 0 1
Lockery 0 1 0 0 Cervino 0 0 0 0
Totals 27 4 7 4 Totals 24 1 5 1

2B — Frantz, Narke; HR — Boccella.

IP H R ER BB SO
PJP
Sgarra 4 2 1 1 5 8
High 3 3 0 3 2 0
Phoenixville
Narke 6 4 3 3 2 7
Schwartz 1 3 1 1 1 1
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