Neumann-Goretti captures 2nd straight Catholic League title

Neumann-Goretti's Joe Lolio is mobbed by teammates after scoring winning run.
Neumann-Goretti's Joe Lolio is mobbed by teammates after scoring winning run. (DAVID SWANSON/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: May 30, 2012

SO, WHERE DID you go the first thing Saturday morning?

If the answer is Wildwood or some other Jersey Shore outpost, Joey Gorman is slightly jealous . . . Then again, his first move helped Ss. Neumann-Goretti High win another Catholic League baseball championship (second in row; third in 4 years).

For about 2 weeks, since making an awkward throw in a Blue Division finale against Bishop McDevitt, Gorman had felt pain in the left part of his back.

"I was figuring, 'I'm a kid. Kids don't have back trouble,' " Gorman said. "It reached the point late last week where I was having trouble getting out of bed. I mean, I could still play and I even pitched [in a quarterfinal last Tuesday], but I was definitely hurting.

"I mentioned it to [catcher] Nicky Nardini and he said right away, 'I bet it's not your back.' He said his cousin [John Law] was a doctor and he'd try to get me an appointment. So, at 7:30 Saturday morning, that's where I went, to see Nicky's cousin."

And the diagnosis was . . . ?

"He knew it was my ribs right away," Gorman said. "He's a chiropractor. He said I popped loose the upper two on my left side. He put them back into place."

Maybe now you'll expect to read that Gorman, a senior lefty bound for Saint Joseph's, spun, say, a two-hitter with 15 strikeouts as N-G coasted.

Sorry, the title game vs. La Salle, as played Tuesday in a sauna disguised as a stadium at Widener University, did not unfold in such fashion.

N-G did win, 5-4, in eight innings, on a bunt-and-run play that turned crazy, allowing pinch-runner Joe Lolio to mad-dash all the way from first base and end the game, but Gorman was not involved in the decision. He'd moved to leftfield after issuing a walk to open the top half of the eighth that raised his pitch count to 144.

As Gorman, who'd almost been shut down after the sixth and then the seventh, allowed first-year coach Mike Zolk to seize the ball and turn things over to junior righthander John LaMotta, he apologized for not completely doing his job. After the win was claimed, he was so happy and relieved he cried for a good 5 minutes.

"That's what I do: pitch complete games," Gorman said. "I felt bad that I didn't get us the W. I had great faith in John, so that part was no problem. I just didn't want people to feel I was letting anyone down."

Gorman allowed nine hits and fanned seven. Three of the four runs scored against him were unearned (his own miscue accounted for one), and he forced the Explorers to strand six guys in scoring position.

After drawing the leadoff walk in the eighth, Ryan Otis tried to steal, but was gunned down by Nardini. The rest of the inning for LaMotta, who'd pitched nine in relief on Friday as the Saints outlasted Monsignor Bonner, 8-7, in a 14-inning semifinal, went flyout/single/strikeout.

Josh Ockimey, who followed Marty Venafro's double with a two-run homer down the rightfield line in the third, then drew a five-pitch walk from starter Kevin Long, a senior righty bound for Lehigh. "Ock" yielded to the 5-3, 148-pound Lolio, a sophomore outfielder and recent JV call-up.

After Jimmy Kerrigan flied out to deep right, Zolk flashed the bunt-and-run sign to Joe Kinee. On the inside, Kinee chuckled.

"I think [Zolk] asked me to bunt five to six times this year, all sacs, and I didn't do it right once!" he reported. "But I was going, 'In this situation, it needs to be done.' "

Kinee bunted toward third. Mike Piscopo charged hard and bare-handed the ball about one-third of the way toward home. His across-the-body throw skipped past first baseman Chris Melillo, and Lolio just kept on going. Though he unfurled a classic belly-flop slide, none was necessary.

As the Saints went berserk, engulfing Lolio, then Kinee, then anyone/everyone, Piscopo remained on his knees, leaning forward so far that his head touched the grass. Finally, P.J. Acierno arrived from leftfield to console him, and pull him to his feet.

"I don't think you lay the game at Mike's feet in any way, shape or form," said La Salle coach Joe Parisi, whose team had won all 14 of its league contests, including two playoffs, by average score of 9-1. "If you go back and see how many guys we left in scoring position and how we didn't execute bunts, that's how we lost the game.

"They made more errors. We made more mistakes."

Said Kinee of the decisive sequence: "Once I got to first and saw the ball go past, I was thinking, 'Should I try to run?' I knew Lolio was ahead of me. I just said, 'Hey, I'll just stay here and watch him.' To score from first on that play? That's tough. Great job!"

Noted Lolio: "I was just running. I didn't think I'd make it to home. 'Big Zoom' [Zolk] was waving me around third, so that's what I did, went home. Everybody was telling me, 'Slide! Slide!' So I dove headfirst."

When asked to describe his feelings, Lolio went to La La land.

"Can't even think of the words," he said.

N-G pulled into a 4-4 tie with two runs in the sixth. After Jimmy Kerrigan was plunked and Kinee hammered a double to right, Joey Glennon lofted a sacrifice to center. Mario DiFebbo was retired on a fly to left and Anthony Adams, the No. 8 hitter and a first-year starter, fired an RBI single to center.

"Coach told me, 'If the ball ain't right down the middle and you can't put it over the fence, don't swing at it,' " Adams said. "But I crushed it. Yeah, not over the fence, but that pitch was right there [in a sweet spot]. I don't think he'll mind.

"That's probably my biggest hit. Last year's title was nice. But this one feels way better, because I'm more a part of it."

La Salle scored one in the third (RBI single by Melillo) and fourth (on error) and two in the sixth (single by Otis, sac fly by Melillo).

Meanwhile, Gorman appreciated his two rearranged ribs.

"Thank God for Dr. Law," he said. "How many doctors are seeing people at 7:30 on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend? That was really nice of him."


Contact Ted Silary at silaryt@phillynews.com. Online school coverage at philly.com/rally.

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