Neumann-Goretti falls in AAA semifinal

Neumann Goretti's Joey Glennon (right) suffered a collision with Lampeter-Strasburg second baseman John Jabour in seventh inning. Steven M. Falk / Staff Photographer
Neumann Goretti's Joey Glennon (right) suffered a collision with Lampeter-Strasburg second baseman John Jabour in seventh inning. Steven M. Falk / Staff Photographer
Posted: June 12, 2012

SO MUCH for the notion that only seniors experience true devastation after heartbreaking defeats that end a season.

Joey Glennon is a junior at Ss. Neumann-Goretti High and again and again Monday, while trying to express his feelings on a 2-1 setback in a PIAA Class AAA baseball semifinal, he cried, heaved, cried harder, heaved harder.

To do the Saints' loss to Lampeter-Strasburg, played at Spring-Ford High, in Royersford, full justice, a three-part series would be necessary.

All kinds of things happened and none of them favored N-G.

About an hour after game's end, coach Mike Zolk, saying he'd just watched a parent's video of one controversial play, noted calmly, but unhesitatingly, "I really feel we were cheated. I really, really, really feel we were cheated. That's no way to send my nine seniors away from their high school careers."

Roughly a half-dozen N-G parents completely agreed. Their mouths, and refusal to obey an umpire's command to move from behind a fence next to N-G's dugout, had led Spring-Ford officials to summon local police. The men did move into the stands at the end of the fifth inning, but some were livid at game's end and the umps, for protection purposes, were greeted by an officer as they left the field. Later, as the spectators slowly departed, at least five officers were spotted in the area behind the main stands.

The 5-10, 160-pound Glennon plays second base and bats sixth. Primary among his memories, he said, will be an exchange he had with a Pioneer player at second base, while he was playing defense.

"The kid said to me, ‘You guys can't hit,' " Glennon said. "I didn't like that. That's bad. I don't want to come off as cocky, but why would someone even say that?"

Though the comment lacked class, it was factually correct at the time it was uttered.

N-G collected no base knocks through six innings and faced a 2-0 deficit in the home seventh due to Dan Neff's solo homer in the third and RBI single in the top half.

The L-S pitcher was Peter Darrenkamp, a senior lefthander.

Josh Ockimey was hit on his jersey by a 2-2 pitch and yielded to pinch-runner Dean DeJesse. Jimmy Kerrigan then broke up the no-no with a rousing double to right-center, with DeJesse stopping at third. Glennon, 1-for-22 in the postseason to that point, inside-outed an RBI single through the right side.

"After all those outs, and frustration, I did my job," he said.

In stepped Mario DiFebbo. Coach Mike Zolk, stationed in the coach's box at third, ordered a squeeze bunt. DiFebbo got the ball down in fair territory and Kerrigan raced home with the tying run! … Wait … What's going on?

The plate ump ruled DiFebbo, a lefty hitter, had been hit by the ball while still in the batter's box. DiFebbo tried it again. This bunt was another goodie. Alas, Kerrigan spun his wheels trying to run away from third and fell to the ground. He couldn't take advantage of DiFebbo's great re-bunt and tie the score.

Darrenkamp and first baseman Collin Miller were not really in the vicinity of where the ball went (past the mound area, to the right), and DiFebbo easily made it to first … Wait … What's going on?

During the play, while heading for second, Glennon had run right into the second baseman. With so much force, in fact, he was woozy and departed for pinch-runner Nick Simon. A long discussion followed this one. The umps called obstruction, ruled the ball dead and said N-G would have the bases loaded (with DiFebbo receiving credit for a single).

Anthony Adams then fanned and Nicky Nardini smashed a hard one-hopper down the third-base line. Third baseman Colton Stoltzfus gloved it on one hop while leaning toward the bag, which he then touched for the game-ending force.

Of course, the Pioneers went berserk and the Saints displayed various levels of agony mixed with anger.

Much later, while delivering an emotional speech to the players and nearby parents, Zolk took the blame for the loss. At one point, he had to walk away from the group to gather himself. He said Adams had missed a sign for a squeeze.

"I always go over the signs before the game," Zolk said. "Today I was thinking about so many things … I forgot. My fault. That's on me."

Speaking of DiFebbo's first bunt, Glennon said through tears, "He did it perfect. Picture perfect. We had the game tied! Mario's one of our better bunters. I know he got it down clean. I didn't see anything wrong."

Said Zolk, at 8 o'clock: "In no way did that ball hit Mario. I just watched the video again on a big screen. We got hosed."

The other huge call that did not go in N-G's favor occurred in the third, shortly after Neff touched senior lefty Joey Gorman for the solo homer (high and very deep to dead left).

DiFebbo got plunked to start the inning and Adams attempted a sac (different sign from a squeeze). Darrenkamp fielded the ball maybe 5 feet off the baseline and fired the ball into rightfield … Wait … What's going on?

The umps ordered DiFebbo back to first and called Adams out for interference, saying he'd been running inside the baseline and thus had caused Darrenkamp to throw wildly.

"Anthony's a righthanded batter," Zolk said. "His first five-six steps, he was inside the baseline. Has to be that way. The video shows that. After that he was not. He was inside the runner's box. He had nothing to do with that pitcher's bad throw. The pitcher's a lefty. His throwing arm was nowhere near the baseline anyway. We got hosed on that one, too. This whole game needs to be replayed."

The PIAA does not allow protests. However, Zolk, with the approval of N-G administrators, said he sent an email to a District 12 officer requesting a replay and offering to show video of "cheating."

Lost in the shuffle was Glennon's outstanding fielding performance. Twice he ranged far to his left to get outs on grounders and he also caught a popup somewhat far into right.

"I had struggled all through the playoffs offensively," he said. "I had to bring defense to the table, the thing I do best. I struggled in [infield-outfield]. One of our bench guys, [Joe] Lolio, told me, ‘Don't worry about it. It's only pregame.' The game's what matters."

And when it ends in gut-wrenching fashion, it matters just as much to juniors.

Contact Ted Silary at silaryt@phillynews.com

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