O'Hara's Cummings has a grand time

Posted: May 15, 2014

PHIL BOYLE was stationed wayyyy out in rightfield - on the other side of the fence, in perfect position when O'Hara senior Nolan Cummings stepped to the plate with the bases loaded in the third inning of yesterday's Catholic League quarterfinals matchup with Ss. Neumann-Goretti.

With revenge and redemption in mind, Cummings got the pitch he wanted and pulled a deep blast in the direction of Boyle, who didn't need much of a jump after the ball left the bat.

Boyle, an O'Hara sophomore infielder who joined the rest of the junior-varsity team in cheering the varsity from behind the fence, caught and procured the grand-slam ball for safekeeping.

"I backpedaled like twice and I just caught it," Boyle said after the game. "I actually thought it was pretty funny because [Cummings] hit a home run at O'Hara in almost the same place."

There was plenty to laugh about for the retribution-seeking Lions, who knocked off the host Saints, 5-2, yesterday after surrendering a five-run lead in a playoff loss to N-G last season. However, for Cummings, there was also relief.

"The world just got lifted off my shoulders," said Cummings, his home-run ball tucked safely into his back pocket. "Kinda made a mistake running off second base."

Cummings might have cost the Lions (11-5) a run in the second inning when he stole second base but was duped into seeking third by the cunning Saints.

"They did that play where the centerfielder makes it look like the ball is in center, but the shortstop had it the whole time," Cummings said with a smile. "And that was a big play right there, and I just wanted to pick myself up."

But he certainly wasn't the only player on either team to blunder on the basepaths.

The Saints (12-3) squandered back-to-back singles in the second when both runners were individually picked off. The second was part of a strike-'em-out, throw-'em-out doubleplay after catcher Dan Dwyer fired behind the runner at first.

In the third inning, another N-G runner was nabbed at second and followed by a single that could have scored that run. Instead, the Saints settled for only a pair of runs driven in by junior Vince Vaccone and senior Josh Ockimey, making the score 5-2.

The Lions had another runner picked off in the seventh. Senior John Banes (2-for-4) and Matt McGraw (1-for-4, RBI) were offensive leaders for O'Hara. In the fourth, McGraw also made a gorgeous diving catch in center foretold by a female fan from the Lions cheering section.

"Matty's got that!" she screamed as the ball was still in flight. And with two runners on, McGraw likely saved some runs.

Senior Kevin George started and earned the win for O'Hara after giving up two runs on five hits in four innings. Junior lefty Chris Fusaro allowed only two hits in his three innings of work.

Sophomore Ethan Pritchett started for N-G and was effective early until the Lions burst ahead with Cummings' homer.

"That ball just looked [huge] coming in, and I just hit it into rightfield," Cummings said. "Off the bat, I knew it was gone. It was just a great feeling."

The Newtown Square resident, who will play middle linebacker at Lock Haven University next year, likes the sensation even better than blowing up a ballcarrier.

"It's just a better feeling," he said. "I mean, when you hit a home run, it's just nice to watch it in the air, because you just feel like everyone's watching you. I like hittin' people, too, but I just think hitting a home run is a better feeling."

After bashing a two-run, first-pitch pinch homer in the playoffs last season, he knows the feeling well.

Next year, he also plans to study criminal justice and eventually become a state trooper, the same major and career goal as his older brother, Ryan, a junior at West Chester.

But before that, he still has some work to do. In Friday's 3:45 p.m. semifinal at Immaculata University, the Lions will face Roman Catholic, which defeated La Salle, 8-4, yesterday.

"This was huge," Cummings said of downing N-G. "Last year, we lost to them, and it was a tough loss, so it was big to come back this year and beat them on their own field. Now, we just have to get ready for La Salle on Friday."

On Twitter: @AceCarterDN

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