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BASEBALL: Catholic League Off to a Strong Start in First Round of State Playoffs

06/06/2018, 11:00pm EDT
By John Knebels - Photos by Kathy Leister

PHILADELPHIA--If the rest of the state was hoping that Catholic League baseball isn’t quite as strong as years past, they received a rude awakening in the first round of this week’s PIAA state tournament.

La Salle, Archbishop Carroll, and Neumann-Goretti garnered victories while Bonner-Prendergast and Conwell-Egan saw their seasons come to a close.

The Catholic League champion La Salle Explorers received tremendous pitching and a dominant offensive performance by one player in particular in a 4-1 Class 6A victory over Conestoga Monday afternoon at Archbishop Wood High School.

Senior Anthony Cossetti stroked a run-scoring single . . . then a solo home run . . . then a two-run triple. His four RBI was more than enough for the Explorers because of the five-hit pitching combo of senior Joe Miller (eight strikeouts in 4.1 innings) and junior Gavin Moretski (2.2-inning save).

“It was great again to have the offense behind me again on a day where I didn’t have my best control of my fastball,” said Miller. “Anthony Cossetti had one of the best offensive performances I’ve seen right at times when we needed it to bring the momentum our way. Also Gavin Moretski came in and was clutch throwing strikes. We had a couple big defense plays, some pickoffs, and some double plays that helped us steal some outs.”

Moretski deflected the praise right back to his counterpart.

“Joe Miller threw great for us, giving us all the fight he had before I came in the game,” said Moretski. “A lot of defensive plays helped as well, including (senior shortstop) Eric Marasheski’s plays. Conestoga made some mental mistakes on the base paths leading to easy outs for us.

“This is where  we wanted to be all year and I don’t think any of us want to be finished yet. We’ve had one goal all year and have worked real hard to get to this point and hopefully we can finish what we’ve wanted to do since the start of the season.”

Cossetti described himself as “speechless” after his four-RBI output.

La Salle senior Anthony Cossetti hits his first home run against Conestoga -Photo by Kathy Leister

La Salle senior pitcher Joe Miller delivers eight strikeouts against Conestoga in first round of State Tournament - Photo by Kathy Leister

La Salle junior Gavin Moretski pitches a 2.2 inning save against Congestoga -Photo by Kathy Leister

“I executed my plan at the plate, which was lay off of low pitches and sliders until two strikes,” said Cossetti. “Their pitcher was pretty good. He’s an ace and I was lucky enough to swing at a mistake; he didn’t throw many mistakes in that entire game.”

As for clearing the fence with one big swing?

“It was unreal because that was my first home run,” said Cossetti. “I tried to hold my excitement and act like I’ve been there before. But we had a quality defense and good pitching and it was a great overall team win.”

In Archbishop Carroll’s 3-2, Class 5A win over West Chester Rustin at La Salle High School, senior Jake Kelchner (5.2 innings) and junior Tyler Kehoe (1.1-inning save) pushed the Pats into the quarterfinals.

It was a huge team win,” said Kehoe. “(Sophomore) Trent Pierce stepped up big time as he has done all of playoffs with an RBI double to give us some insurance, and we just played some good all-around baseball to get us one step closer to the goal – a state championship.”

Archbishop Carroll senior pitcher Jake Kelchner helps take the Patriots to the quarterfinals- Photo-Kathy Leister

Kehoe said the Pats had successfully channeled the disappointment of losing the Catholic League championship to La Salle, 10-0, nine days earlier.

“Our team is in a good place right now and playing our best baseball as a whole,” said Kehoe. “I don’t think anyone is going to stop us after losing the Catholic League championship how we did.

Neumann-Goretti received an astonishing performance from senior pitcher Joe LaFiora in a 7-2, Class 2A triumph over Dock Mennonite at Methacton High School. The game had originally been scheduled for Monday before being postponed for Tuesday because of wet field conditions.

Neumann-Goretti senior pitcher Joe LaFiora allowed only one hit vs. Dock Mennonite in the Saint's 7-2 first round victory - PSD Photo by Evan Easterling

In six innings, LaFiora struck out a career-high 14 and allowed only one hit – a home run – on 79 pitches before senior Aidan Baur mopped up in the seventh. LaFiora, who is coming off Tommy John surgery, also knocked in a run. On offense, however, the star was Billy D’Ambrosia. The junior third baseman slammed a bases-clearing double and knocked in four.

“Right from the jump I knew today was going to be a good day,” said LaFiora. “I felt good during my long toss and then that translated into my bullpen. I had a feel for all my pitches and took it into the game with me. From the first pitch to the last pitch I knew I had there one through nine off balanced and had them thinking.”

LaFiora said the Saints have benefited from a challenging Catholic League schedule.

“The whole season is molded around our Catholic League run,” said LaFiora. “Unfortunately we came up short this year, but that's baseball for you. Right now we want a state championship and we treat every game as our last. The atmosphere as of now is at an all-time high, and winning a third state championship in the last four years is something we're hunting for.”

Meanwhile, D’Ambrosia said he was taking advantage of what his opponent pitchers were throwing.

“I just was attacking every fast ball thrown to me because I don’t get that many,” said D’Ambrosia. “On my first at bat he threw me a fast ball outside and I took it to right, and on my last at bat it was bases loaded so I knew he was coming with a fastball, so I just took advantage of it and tried to give our team the best opportunity to win the game.”

Up next are the PIAA quarterfinals. On June 7, La Salle will face Red Lion 4:00 at Lancaster’s Manheim Township High School. Simultaneously, Class 5A Archbishop Carroll will take on Cedar Cliff at Muhlenberg High School. On Friday at 4:00, Neumann-Goretti will meet Schuylkill Haven at Muhlenberg. 

NOTES: Conwell-Egan dropped a Class 3A decision to Oley Valley, 4-3, at Archbishop Wood. After tossing four shutout innings, senior Ryan Crowell left the game with an injury with the Eagles in front, 2-0. The C-E runs were knocked in by junior Justin Porter, senior Brendan Sullivan, and senior Will Zimmerman . . . Bonner-Prendergast’s 4A bout with Northwestern Lehigh at George Washington High School turned into an 8-0 loss. Junior Matt Headley had two of B-P’s three hits.

Conwell-Egan vs. Oley Valley - PSD Photos by Kathy Leister

(John Knebels can be reached at or on Twitter @johnknebels.)

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