La Salle's Acierno above par in Class AAAA baseball title win

Posted: June 01, 2012

PJ. ACIERNO is headed to La Salle University to play golf on a partial scholarship, but that sport is not the one to which he's most, well, partial.

His first love is baseball and you won't believe what he has not done once all spring.

Swing a club.

"The swing is definitely different," Acierno said. "Golf, baseball, you're swinging on two separate planes. From playing both sports in the summer, I know that one can definitely mess things up for the other. So, I've stayed away from golf and I'll do that until baseball's over."

Depending on who's pitching, the 5-9, 170-pound Acierno serves the diamond Explorers as a shortstop or leftfielder and the former was his position Thursday during a clash with Frankford, held at South Philly's Richie Ashburn Field, for the Class AAAA City Title.

Like always, he occupied the No. 2 spot in the order. Like often, he was productive in what became a 14-1, six-inning frolic, going 2-for-4 with a double, walk and two RBI.

As you may remember (and perhaps would like to forget), on Tuesday La Salle dropped a 5-4, eight-inning decision to Ss. Neumann-Goretti for the Catholic League championship, and the decisive run scored on a walkoff, three-base error.

"We were really upset after that loss," Acierno said. "A bunch of the seniors, we've been going at it for 4 years with the goal of winning a CL title. It was tough to lose that game that way, first giving up a lead in the sixth inning and then losing on the error.

"But we bounced back today. We have three losses this year and after all of them we've come back with fire and passion. We work hard every day in practice and we're resilient."

This one got away from Frankford within the first 10 minutes.

Ryan Otis, La Salle's leadoff batter, reached second on a way-up-there popup that was lost in the noonday sun by shortstop Ricky Alvarez; the game began at 12:17. Acierno, Chris Melillo, Corey Baiada and Tyler Kozeniewski drew consecutive walks, some on very close pitches, from lefty Hector Cerda and Mike Piscopo sent a sacrifice fly to left.

Three-nothing after one became 6-0 after two and the lowlight in that second frame was a wild throw on a rundown that permitted two runs.

By that point maybe Acierno's mind was drifting to golf. After all, there's a public course on the other side of FDR Park.

Through the 2006-07 school year, golf was a spring sport and back in those days Acierno, also an important and frisky basketball sub, would have been forced to make a choice.

"I would have chosen baseball. No doubt," he said. "I've played baseball my whole life. It has always been my favorite sport. I only started picking up golf as a freshman."

Quick learner, this kid is. As the team's No. 1 performer, Acierno last fall paced La Salle to the CL championship. He shot 76 at Edgemont Country Club in the final, giving him a tie for third overall, and his best round to date is a par 72 at Sandy Run CC.

Obvious question: If baseball's his favorite, why the links thing for college?

"I do love that, too," he said. "It began as just something extra to do in the summer, but I've done well enough, and I like it enough, that that'll be my sport at La Salle. They have two golf seasons in college, so that'll be good, too."

While storming to victory, La Salle had many headliners. Melillo went 2-for-3 with a double two walks and two RBI. Baiada went 2-for-4 with a double, one walk and three ribbies and Piscopo added two singles to his sac fly. Dom Cuoci, a junior righthander, scattered three hits and fanned five and was in enough control that only one Pioneer advanced beyond second. That was Kevin Montero, who doubled in the fourth and came around on an error.

Acierno, who lives in Flourtown, is eyeing the accounting end of business. Still up for debate, meanwhile, is his long-range handle.

His full name is Paul Joseph Acierno and he has gone forever as P.J. Yet, nowadays, you'll often hear his teammates call him Paul.

"Mr. Parisi started that," Acierno said, referring to Joe, La Salle's coach. "He called me Paul one day in class and everybody started picking up on it. I like the Paul thing. It's a good way for everybody to joke around. But I don't think I'll ever drop P.J."

Baseball? That's another story. Hey, at least the long-range sport involves a swing.

Contact Ted Silary at silaryt@phillynews.com

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