Neumann-Goretti beats PET for city crown

Neumann-Goretti's Josh Ockimey, center, celebrates with his teammates after scoring against Philadelphia Electric. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)
Neumann-Goretti's Josh Ockimey, center, celebrates with his teammates after scoring against Philadelphia Electric. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)
Posted: May 31, 2012

AS EXPECTED, Catholic League champion Ss. Neumann-Goretti beat Public League titlist Philadelphia Electric Tech for the city crown. But it didn't start as expected.

After being extended to extra innings in the CL semifinal and final in earning its second consecutive league championship, heavy favorite Neumann-Goretti got off to a slow start. It wasn't until the third inning that the Saints' bats came alive and propelled them to a convincing, 13-0 victory for the PIAA District 12 AAA championship in six innings Thursday at Richie Ashburn Field.

Both teams will compete Monday in the opening round of the state tournament.

Nine Saints players recorded an RBI in the contest.

"Once we start hitting, we're tough to beat," catcher Nicky Nardini said. "Our defense is pretty fundamentally sound, so if we hit we're a pretty tough team."

Looking to become the first Public League school to defeat the CL champion in a city title game since the Catholic League rejoined the PIAA in 2008, the Chargers threatened to take the lead in the second inning. N-G starter Joe Jaep, holding a 1-0 lead, walked the first two batters of the frame. After a wild pitch put runners on second and third, Nardini picked off the runner at third base to kill the Chargers' momentum.

"Nicky is the most underrated player in the city," Saints coach Mike Zolk said. "He didn't make All-Catholic, despite the fact that I nominated him. There's not a better defensive catcher in the city."

Nardini also caught a runner stealing in the third inning when PET had runners on the corners, once again keeping the Chargers off the scoreboard. Strong defensive catching was on display throughout the afternoon, as Nardini and PET's Devin Nottis provided many of the game's highlights from behind the plate.

The experienced Saints, who started seven seniors against PET, finally broke through offensively after their defense bailed them out of tough spots. N-G tallied multiple runs in each of the game's final four innings, including a five-run sixth. Josh Ockimey, the lone sophomore in the Saints' lineup, drove in two runs and scored two in four plate appearances.

"He's been around the block," Zolk said. "He's been in some big situations. Even though he's only 15 years old, we treat him like a veteran."

Both starting pitchers had control issues in the early going. PET starter Ray Guinther walked eight batters in 5 innings. N-G's Jaep walked four batters in the second and third innings before settling down and retiring the side in order in the fourth and fifth.

"Sometimes he gets a little wiry out there and gets in his own head," Nardini said of Jaep. "Once he settles in, he's fine. He cruises."

Jaep went the distance for a two-hitter, with four strikeouts.

The Saints will face District 3 runner-up Twin Valley on Monday at Temple's Ambler campus. N-G and Twin Valley are no strangers to each other: The two schools have met in each of the Saints' past two appearances in the state tournament. N-G defeated the Raiders, 1-0, in the 2009 quarterfinals, and lost to them, 3-1, in the opening round of the 2011 state tournament.

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