GAMP stuns Central to reach Public League final

Posted: May 24, 2012

FOR A WHILE, it looked to be rather fitting that Jake Kurtz would be playing the violin Wednesday night during Girard Academic Music Program's spring concert.

Then good things began happening and . . . Who knows? Maybe he mixed in some trumpet. At loud volume. Accompanied by happy dancers.

Kurtz is 5-9, 160-pound sophomore righthander and he was the last pitcher standing in a wild Public League baseball semifinal at Richie Ashburn Field in South Philly's FDR Park.

Did he dazzle? Not exactly. Did he regroup after early and midgame struggles? No doubt. And this notation - (W) - can be found after his name in the pitching lines portion of the box score.

Rallying from a 7-2 deficit over the final three innings, the Pioneers stunned Central, 9-7, to earn a date with Frankford in Friday's 3 o'clock final (same site).

Kurtz uncorked 134 pitches, 77 of which were strikes. He surrendered 11 hits and six walks and did not record his first (and only) strikeout until the early moments of the seventh inning. Central reached him for three runs in the first, two in the second and two more in the fourth.

"At that point I was thinking, 'Oh, no. That's it. I'm done,' " Kurtz said. "But they let me stay in. I just tried to do what I had to do. I wanted to throw strikes and get them out with popups or groundouts, whatever it took."

He was also front and center in a gigantic moment.

GAMP scored one in the fifth and five more in the sixth to seize an 8-7 lead. Then, Tom Benek smoked a double off the fence in left-center and yielded to pinch-runner Michael Duson, who earlier had stolen two bases in a courtesy-runner role.

Coach Art Kratchman decided to resurrect the ol' fake pickoff. Kurtz wheeled and pretended to fire to second. As is common, Duson turned his back while returning to the bag. The Pioneers began yelling, " 'Get the ball!! Get the ball!!" Centerfielder Vincent Clark even ran to a spot where the ball supposedly was. Duson broke for third. Kurtz' eyes bugged out.

"I ran right at him," Kurtz said. "I couldn't quite get him, but all I had to do was throw it to [third baseman] Desmond Drummond. Great moment. It gave me more motivation to go on and on and on."

He added, "We've used that play a few times this year . . . Let's see. I think it's been successful three out of four times."

Julien Blancon and Benek were the only players to post hits for RBI as Central rolled to a combined five runs in the first two innings. Rightfielder Nick Carine prevented two more runs with a diving catch of a liner. Benek (double) and losing pitcher Anthony DeVito (single) bagged RBI in the fourth.

In GAMP's five-run sixth, Carine smacked a two-run double to make it 7-7 and Drummond scored the decisive run on a wild pitch. A fielder's choice in the seventh made it 9-7.

Drummond went 3-for-3 and scored two runs. Carine (three RBI), Tyler Criniti and Clark thirded six hits. For Central, Benek went 3-for-4 with two RBI, Gabe Buchanan stroked four hits in five at-bats and Mike Cavallaro went 2-for-3 with two runs scored.

Kurtz, of 48th near Baltimore, was strictly a catcher until age 12.

"The coach had no one else and he knew I had a good arm," Kurtz said. "Going to the mound, I was thinking, 'Whoa, what's with this?' But I struck out the side and I've been pitching since then. I like having the ball. Making an impact on the game."

Even with trickery.         

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