Frankford advances to Public League title game

Posted: May 24, 2012

AH, THERE'S nothing quite as exciting as witnessing a championship game.

Wait. Yes, there is. It's called playing in one. In fact, that's even better.

Friday, Hector Cerda will try to help Frankford High win a second consecutive Public League baseball title in a 3 o'clock tilt, to be played at Richie Ashburn Field in South Philly's FDR Park, against Girard Academic Music Program. And he'll especially appreciate the moment because, just a few days ago, he was not an active member of the program.

Coach Juan Namnun explained Cerda's absence by saying the latter needed a break to help handle a family issue.

He missed one game . . . then a second . . . then a third . . . 

"I didn't know how long everything was going to take," Cerda said. "I felt real sad being away from my team. I just wanted us to keep on winning, which I knew we could, so I could make it back. I sure did not want my senior season to end like that."

The 5-7, 145-pound Cerda, a lefty thrower and hitter, serves Frankford as a pitcher-outfielder. Wednesday, in the first game of a semifinal doubleheader at Ashburn, he was a dual standout as the Pioneers humbled George Washington, 11-1, in six innings.

On the mound, he posted one-hit ball over five innings and the lone run he surrendered was logged in the unearned column. In the No. 3 hole, he went 2-for-4 with one RBI and two runs scored.

With score at 10-1, Frankford could have ended the game by scoring a run in the fifth against reliever Jake Wright. Didn't happen. In fact, Wright faced just seven batters in the fourth and fifth combined.

Cerda re-energized his teammates, one out into the sixth, by lashing a several-hop triple off the fence in rightfield. Kevin Montero and Brandon Gonzalez were issued intentional walks and Rafael "Omar" Cruz knocked in the it's-all-over run with a liner over the head of the drawn-in leftfielder, Corey Sharp.

"I knew [Wright] was going to throw me an off-speed pitch," Cerda said of his triple. "All I was thinking about was driving it real hard somewhere."

Cerda said he hadn't pitched since the second regular-season meeting between Frankford and Central; that game was played April 30.

"The big issue today was going to be his endurance," Namnun said. "We hoped he'd go at least five innings and it was outstanding that he was able to do that.

"We were a little worried about his timing [while batting]. But we were able to get him into the cage for a couple days and he did great there, too. Most of all we were happy to have Hector back for the energy he gives us. He really infuses our lineup. And the bench."

Said Cerda: "I knew I'd be kind of rusty. When I was warming up, my arm wasn't giving me any problems. I was going, 'This'll be OK.' I knew I'd get tired, though, because I hadn't pitched in so long. I was surprised to go five innings and only give up one hit. Thanks to my teammates for making the plays!"

Frankford's five-run first was largely butt ugly, though Ramon Rosario did thump a two-run single to center. Cerda's single to left-center brought home a second-inning run and Ricky Alvarez was front and center in what little kids would have excitedly been calling a grand slam. Um, not quite.

After an intentional walk to Augusto "June" Ortega loaded the bases, Alvarez sent what should have only been a two-run single to center. Instead, Ortega and Alvarez also scored as the relay throw skipped past catcher Dean Grande, momentarily stunned by a collision with pinch-runner Alex Torres, and no one else bothered to chase it. Almodovar was running for Kidanny Cumba, who'd suffered an ankle injury while completing a stolen base.

Over the last 11 seasons, counting playoffs, Frankford is 174-21 against Pub opposition.

"I've never been on a team that made it to a championship game 2 years in a row," said Cerda, who lives at M and Bristol Streets, in Juniata, and is bound for Camden County College, in South Jersey. "So, to have a chance to win two in a row, it's exciting."

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Alex Torres

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