Rick O'Brien: LaMotta provides relief, eight-plus innings of it

Neumann-Goretti junior John LaMotta finally got a chance to pitch Friday, and it seemed to go on forever. He entered in the sixth in a game that eventually went 14 innings.
Neumann-Goretti junior John LaMotta finally got a chance to pitch Friday, and it seemed to go on forever. He entered in the sixth in a game that eventually went 14 innings. (DIANE ZOLK)
Posted: May 27, 2012

With a pitching rotation that includes stalwarts Joey Gorman and Joe Kinee, John LaMotta has had few chances to shine for Neumann-Goretti.

On Friday, when the junior righthander's moment finally did arrive, it seemed that it might never end.   

In a Catholic League playoff semifinal against Monsignor Bonner that took 14 innings to complete, LaMotta, coming on in relief in the sixth frame and finishing the job, helped the Saints outlast the Friars, 8-7, at Widener University.

"Coach [Joe] Messina had told me a couple of days before the game that the team might need me," he said. "I was ready to go. I just had no idea that I would get as many innings as I did. It was pretty wild."

The contest, which was marred by 14 errors, lasted 4 hours, 12 minutes. The umpires, gathering at home plate with commissioner Gene Otto and the coaches, nearly suspended the marathon after 13 innings.

In the 14th, with the aid of Bonner's ninth error, N-G loaded the bases. Sophomore Josh Ockimey, who blasted a solo home run in the third, set off a celebration near first base after drawing a four-pitch walk.

"It's a shame somebody has to lose a game like this," said Gorman, a senior who doubles as an outfielder. "You have to tip your cap to Bonner. They gave it all they had."

The 6-foot-1, 200-pound LaMotta yielded four hits and struck out 10. Of his 95 pitches, 75 went for strikes. He issued one walk.

"That's one of the best performances I've witnessed," said Gorman, who will pitch at St. Joseph's. "What he did was unreal. He's the reason we won the game."

LaMotta said he mixed a fastball (two- and four-seam), change-up, and curveball. He was touched for a seventh-inning run.

"I'm a ground-ball pitcher," said the 17-year-old, who lives near 10th and Jackson Streets in South Philly. "I want the hitter to put the ball in play. I'm confident that I'll get good support from my defense."

In 31 innings this season, LaMotta, owner of a 2-1 record, has a 2.94 ERA and 33 strikeouts. He has walked 11.

Bonner skipper Joe DeBarberie got a glimpse of LaMotta's arm last fall. "I saw him warming up," the coach said. "I said to myself, 'This kid looks pretty good.' "

A two-out, seventh-inning error snatched victory - and a second straight trip to the Catholic League final - from Bonner's grasp.

"I was actually getting ready to jog out onto the field," DeBarberie said.

The coach added, "Really, when you look at it, you don't deserve to win when you make nine errors."

At 2:30 p.m. Tuesday at Widener, Neumann-Goretti (17-3) will go for its third league crown in four seasons in a game against La Salle (19-2).

"We'll try to keep doing the things we've done all year," Gorman said.

Gorman, a 5-10, 180-pound southpaw, will get the start for the No. 6-ranked Saints. The No. 3 Explorers are expected to send Kevin Long, a 6-0, 190-pound righthander bound for Lehigh, to the hill.

District 12. The details for Thursday's three PIAA District 12 finals have been set. The Class AAAA and AAA games will be played at Richie Ashburn Field.

In Class AAAA, La Salle will take on Frankford at 12:15 p.m. That will be followed, at 3:15 p.m. by a Class AAA tilt between Neumann-Goretti and Philadelphia Electrical Charter.

In Class AA, at 12:15 at La Salle High's Ward Field, Esperanza Academy Charter will face Conwell-Egan.

Quotable. Bensalem coach Rick Lee, on the Owls' 16-5 campaign: "I couldn't have hand-picked a better group of kids to coach."

Extra bases. Friends' Central senior catcher Jamie Ulrich, ticketed for Haverford College, batted .360 with 26 RBIs and a .558 slugging percentage. Teammate Ben Harris, a senior righthander, went 6-1 with a 0.88 ERA and 89 K's in 64 innings. He will attend the University of Maryland, but not play baseball. ... Cardinal O'Hara senior outfielder Sean Rogers hit .532 with 10 runs and a .527 on-base percentage. Teammate Scott Grinnan, a junior third baseman and outfielder, batted .531 with 13 RBIs and 10 runs. ... Conestoga second baseman Jake Carr, slowed most of this season by a torn toe tendon, hit .410 with an on-base percentage of .580. The senior, an inside linebacker in football, will play baseball at East Stroudsburg. ... Archbishop Wood senior shortstop Tim Greenfield batted .353 with 21 runs, 16 RBIs, 5 doubles, and 2 homers. ... For William Tennent, junior outfielder and pitcher Brandon DiBona hit .453 with 15 runs.

Contact Rick O'Brien at 610-313-8019, robrien@phillynews.com, or on Twitter @ozoneinq. Read his blog, "The O'Zone," at www.philly.com/ozone

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