“I understand how difficult it is now,” he said, flashing a wide smile. “When kids get on you, it’s the worst. You hate it. But you don’t want to throw them out. Well, you want to throw them out, but you can’t. But if a guy is in your face, you have to throw him out.”
Criniti was at his primary baseball job Monday afternoon as the first baseman/closer for the Pioneers, who beat Lincoln, 9-3, in a Public League quarterfinal game in South Philadelphia. Criniti was officially 0-for-3, but he was on base four times, including twice by error. The Railsplitters were sloppy on defense committing five errors in all. Of GAMP’s nine runs, eight were unearned.
“You might be able to get away with that against some teams during the regular season, but not [in the playoffs],” said Lincoln coach John Larsen. “We’re much better than we showed today.”
Showing the frustration of the day, designated hitter Christian McGovern stomped back to the dugout after striking out to start the seventh inning. Sensing his player was about to explode, Larsen warned, “If you throw anything [a helmet, for instance], it better not hit the ground.”
It’s the playoffs, so the intensity is understandable. Lincoln scored the first run of the game and GAMP got the next nine. Criniti, a 4-year starter who was second-team all-Public last year, got the Pioneers going on offense by reaching on an error and coming around to score on Nick Carine’s first-inning single.
An unfortunate series of misplays and inattentiveness hurt Lincoln in the third and fourth innings as GAMP scored four runs in each to put the game away.
Desmond Drummond settled down after a shaky first inning to register the win. Criniti, who flashed some leather the opening five innings at first base, pitched the final two innings in relief.
“He had a little bit of an off year by his standards, but he gives us a lot of quality baseball,” said Art Kratchman, GAMP’s coach. “He’s an excellent first baseman, he’s our leadoff guy. His average is down to .270, .275 and he’s hit into some tough luck. But his on-base percentage is real high and he’s been closing games for us. When he plays well, we’re going to be good.”
The Pioneers play Central in the Pub semifinals on Wednesday (details to be announced).
Criniti, who lives at 12th & Mercy in South Philly, is headed to the fine baseball program at Camden County Community College. He’s enjoyed tremendous success in his 4 years at GAMP and is not eager for it to end.
“My high school career is this close to being over,” he said. “We gotta win every game now. It’s win or go home.” n
Contact Ed Barkowitz at firstname.lastname@example.org