Roman's players one win away from amazing comeback

Posted: May 22, 2014

TENSION, what tension? When the pressure is on, something interesting happens to Roman Catholic starting pitcher Kyle Rogalski.

Last week, with the Cahillites trailing by a run in the fourth inning against Cardinal O'Hara, the righthander uncorked a pitch that slipped from his hand, bounced in the grass halfway to the plate and rolled to the catcher.

The result was a balk that awarded second base to O'Hara's Dan Dwyer, who had led off the inning with a walk.

A funny quip from the Roman bench was not far behind: "That's his best!"

"It happens to me more than any other pitcher, honestly," Rogalski said, smiling at Roman's practice yesterday at John Boyce Field in Roxborough.

"It's probably happened four times this year. I hold the ball real loose when I throw it. I don't know [why]. I just laughed. I gotta laugh. You have to enjoy the moment. You can't get all frustrated, because that's when bad things happen."

A play like that might have derailed last year's team, which went 2-13 in Catholic League play. This time, Rogalski struck out the batter on three pitches, induced a popup and ended the inning with a groundout. Later, a three-spot in the sixth helped the Cahillites nab a lead they eventually parlayed into a 6-5, nine-inning semifinal victory.

Today, at 3:45 p.m. at Widener University, Roman (7-8 Catholic League Red) will make its first CL title appearance since 1992 when the Cahillites face Ss. Neumann-Goretti (12-2 CL Blue), which advanced from the losers' bracket. Game 2, necessary only if Roman loses, will be played Friday.

So, how did a team with no first-team All-Catholic coaches' selections this season go from worst to a shot at first?

"[Last season] you'd go out in the first inning and give up nine runs and you go, 'Oh, here we go again,' " senior leftfielder Matt De Treux said. "And then everyone just went back to not caring and going through the motions. It was disheartening, embarrassing."

"This year, we have a group of seniors that took the reins and kind of got everyone together," De Treux continued. "I think it's more of a drive of not wanting last year to happen again that got us here this year."

De Treux, whose dad, Walt, is an assistant at Archbishop Ryan, is no stranger to the bounce-back. He was cut from Roman's freshman team, but tried out again as a sophomore and made JV.

"It motivated me to get back," said De Treux, who singled in a run against O'Hara. "I definitely wanted to play high school baseball. My dad is involved in baseball, and I definitely wanted to be on this team."

Senior shortstop Joe Myers also had to rebound after fielding miscues chased him to the outfield.

"Last year was tough for me," he said. "I played really bad at shortstop and then I moved out to centerfield. Didn't hit too well last year, either."

Myers said he requested the outfield move to clear his mind, but all the while . . .

"I said, 'Next year, I'm the shortstop,' " he said. "It was in my mind all summer. Just came back with confidence and I knew I could do it for my team. I'd do anything for these guys."

Perhaps the other Cahillites had similar summer ambitions. Head coach Anthony Vallucci said his team is batting .294 after hitting .223 last season. Roman is also 11-1 when scoring five or more runs and 0-9 when failing to score at least five.

"We're not the home-run hitting team, we're not the doubles-hitting team, we're a singles-and-bunt team," Myers said. "We field the ball and we pitch."

Enter Rogalski, who will carry a 6-2 record and 2.59 ERA into today's matchup against the dangerous-hitting Saints, who are led by lethal lefty first baseman Josh Ockimey.

"Last year, I was coming in after a good sophomore year and I figured junior year I had to prove something, carry the team," Rogalski said. "But, that's the wrong mentality to have. We all kind of went into it that way, so we all kind of played for ourselves, and that was reflected in the play of a two-win season."

Rogalski, who pitched eight innings and earned the win against O'Hara, said the key to his success this season has been to not do too much, which includes not fretting when the ball squirts from his hand.

"Yeah, just let it go," he said. "You just have to come back with the next pitch."

"Hold it tighter," he added, laughing. "Just hold it tighter, I guess."

On Twitter: @AceCarterDN

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