Neumann-Goretti wins AAA playoff opener

Posted: June 06, 2012

IN A PREVIOUS life, Joe Kinee must have fed his family by walking tightropes. And when he passed, the cause was likely old age, not a splash from 300 feet into raging rapids.

Kinee is a 6-foot, 190-pound junior righthander for Ss. Neumann-Goretti High’s ever-interesting baseball program, and Tuesday, in the first round of the Class AAA state playoffs, he experienced four innings of relative comfort.

The fourth, fifth and sixth were tense, however, as in the bases-loaded-each-time variety. The ol’ Joe Kinee would not have thrived.

"When I was younger, in situations like that, I used to get all nuts," he said. "I’d really struggle. I’d look around and go, ‘Oh, man, the bases are loaded!’ I’d focus too much on the runners. I’d get nervous and give up hits or walk guy after guy after guy."

This time? Nary a misstep.

Kinee went the distance, scattering eight hits and recording five strikeouts, as N-G bested Twin Valley (it’s in Elverson, about 15 miles west of Phoenixville), 2-0, in Game 2 of a doubleheader at La Salle University. In the opener, a AAAA first-rounder, La Salle cruised past Upper Dublin, 10-1.

Here’s how Kinee’s coulda-been-disastrous innings unfolded?…

Fourth: Thanks to two singles and a hit batsman, the bases were loaded with one away. Kinee escaped with a strikeout and forceout.

Fifth: Righthander Jared Price, a flame-throwing Maryland signee, crunched a one-out triple to center. After a hit batsman and walk surrounded a whiff, Kinee induced another ground ball that turned into a forceout.

Sixth: The leadoff batter walked, but Kinee picked him off. The Nos. 8 (infield) and 9 hitters (bunt) posted singles. The next three batters fanned, walked and went down looking, respectively.

As he headed for the dugout after each of those nerve-wracking innings, Kinee (kuh-NEE) received quite the greeting from his delirious teammates and coaches.

"Today, I just felt on," he said. "When they had ’em loaded, I was fine. My emotions didn’t change.

“I’ve really matured through the years. It’s just, ‘Stay within the mechanism.’ I forget what’s around me and just focus on the batters. With the bases loaded, nobody can really go anywhere. It’s just me and the batter."

Although Kinee sees himself as a pitcher for college purposes, he also plays third base and bats fifth in the order. In this one, in the first inning, he smashed a one-hopper that ate up the first baseman and exploded into rightfield for an RBI single. The run-scorer was Marty Venafro, who’d bunted into a fielder’s choice, then thieved second. Jimmy Kerrigan had walked in the cleanup spot.

In the third, soph first baseman Josh Ockimey, a big, lefty swinger who’s reminding more and more folks of Ryan Howard (on the good days), launched a solo homer over the fence in rightfield. A college coach behind the backstop said the pitch, in on Ockimey’s hands, was a 91-mph fastball.

N-G has played five postseason games in 2012. Ockimey is hitting .438 (7-for-16), with two doubles, a triple, three homers and 10 RBI. To boot, he made a great scoop in the fifth after Venafro bounced a throw from shortstop that followed an impressive stop deep in the hole.

Kinee was the starting pitcher Friday of Memorial Day weekend when N-G outlasted Monsignor Bonner, 8-7, in a 14-inning Catholic League semifinal. His outing, admittedly, was not the greatest: five innings, nine hits, six runs (four earned).

"Actually, I hadn’t been pitching too hot for a while," he said.

Thus, he scheduled a session with Neumann product Frank DiMichele, who pitched briefly in the majors and now provides instruction.

"I met with him last Friday for about an hour and a half," said Kinee, of 16th near Porter. "We watched some [past/recent] videos, and he noticed a couple things I was doing different.

“I was rushing my delivery, not separating my upper and lower halves. And my arm was flying too far back. I worked all weekend on making sure my lower half was going first. The stuff Frank told me really helped.

“The first three innings were pretty flawless?…" He laughed. "Uh, yeah, then the next three weren’t too flawless. It felt great to get through them, though."

In case you’re wondering, the seventh went one-two-three after Kinee had been drilled in the back of the left shoulder while batting in the sixth. Retaliation? Who knows? Kinee had plunked three Raiders, and Price (in the back) had been one of the victims.

"This’ll be a weird night," Kinee said. "I’ll be icing my left arm instead of my right."

While savoring the tightrope walk that led to a shutout. 

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

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