"Next time out, I had something on my shoulders. Had to put it behind me and get tough."
Philadelphia Electrical & Technology Charter, a participant in Public League baseball for eight seasons, now owns its second AAA championship (also 2008) and, you got it, Guinther emerged as the winning pitcher.
Early Friday afternoon at South Philly's FDR Park, hard by I-95, the 5-8, 145-pound junior righthander went the distance as the Chargers topped visiting Alvin Swenson, 7-5. (A 1 p.m. start was necessitated by Swenson's senior prom.)
Guinther, who floats plateward the occasional knuckleball, allowed four hits and walked six while striking out nine. Appearing to be particularly juiced, he racked up three of those punchouts in the seventh inning and did a mini-leap off the mound just before his teammates came rushing toward him.
The other position for Guinther, who bats second, is shortstop, but the mound is where he loves to butter his bread. And even add some jelly.
"I like having leadership. Being in control," Guinther said. "I like the feeling of knowing that the game's in my hands, that the team's on my back."
That wasn't the case a year ago. In fact, Guinther (the "u" is silent) was then a student at Archbishop Carroll and still feeling disappointed over being sentenced to the junior varsity.
His baseball buddies from the Roxborough-Manayunk area - second baseman Rob Payne, first baseman Tommy Hicks and third baseman Danny LaPorte; they batted first, third and fourth, respectively, in this one - started suggesting a transfer to PET would make all kinds of sense. In time, Guinther listened and wound up thriving.
"As the new guy, I had to show myself," he said. "I guess that happened because I got the spot as the No. 1 starter."
Through 4 1/2 innings, Guinther and Swenson's Mike Amodei, a junior lefty, were locked in a 1-1, error-free duel. The Lions then self-destructed, however, committing four miscues in a six-run explosion. The only hit was a two-run double by the No. 9 hitter, freshman shortstop Elliot Castillo; Payne's double had driven home a third-inning run.
Swenson, in response, immediately loaded the bases on a single, walk and error. Another boo-boo let in a run and leadoff hitter Brian Nieves, also a freshman shortstop, delivered a two-run single.
Were we headed for a matching meltdown?
"In my earlier years, that probably would have happened," Guinther acknowledged. "I was a head case. I've learned to just stay focused and try to get the next guy out. [Negative vibes] aren't going to help you."
A run-scoring grounder and a popup ended that inning, leaving the score at 7-5. An error and a walk gave Swenson hope with one away in the seventh, but Guinther, who lives on Krams near Wilde, in Manayunk, humped up to blow away the final two hitters.
"This feels good," he said. "Feels amazing, actually. Especially to know I've come in here as a first-year player and helped PET win a championship."
On Monday, the Chargers will visit Frankford for a quarterfinal in the overall Pub playoffs. A battle for the AAA City Title and an appearance in the state tourney are down the line.
Ray Guinther will do his best . . . And not collapse if he momentarily doesn't.