Neumann-Goretti captures Catholic League championship

RON CORTES / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Winning pitcher Charlie Jerla (second from left) celebrates with his Neumann-Goretti teammates after beating Roman Catholic in the Catholic League championship game.
RON CORTES / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Winning pitcher Charlie Jerla (second from left) celebrates with his Neumann-Goretti teammates after beating Roman Catholic in the Catholic League championship game.
Posted: May 25, 2014

TO THE VICTORS go the photo shoots.

After Ss. Neumann-Goretti claimed its third Catholic League championship in 4 years yesterday with an 11-0 win against Roman Catholic, the Saints' "Big Three" gathered on the infield between first and second base on Ward Field at La Salle College High.

With junior southpaw Pat Doudican and sophomore righty Ethan Pritchett each clutching the championship plaque, the duo summoned yesterday's hero, senior lefty Charlie Jerla, for a photo-op with former longtime Daily News sports writer Ted Silary.

Each in the triumvirate jockeyed physically and verbally for the middle, and thus, plaque-holding position.

"I'm in the middle," one said. "No, I'm in the middle," another volleyed.

Silary, arguably the most compelling writer of sport since early man etched saber-toothed-tiger killing exploits, put an end to the bickering.

"Put Charlie in there," Silary said, "he's the senior."

"Ahhh," said Pritchett and Doudican, with sarcastic objection.

"We're all great friends," Jerla said later. "They're like brothers to me. Even once I graduate, I'll still talk to everybody here. I love these guys."

Jerla, a fiery 6-2, 180-pounder headed to Marist next season, was stellar on the mound, giving up only four hits and striking out eight in five innings. At his feistiest, Jerla released a guttural growl in the direction of the Roman bench, which earned the lefty a gentle talking-to from the home-plate ump in the second inning.

"I love when people start hyping me up, because I throw my best at that time," he said later.

The Roman bench had simply engaged in the typical "hey-pitcher-pitcher" banter; however, they responded even louder when it was clear they had Jerla's ear.

Within reason, Saints first-year head coach Kevin Schneider wouldn't have it any other way.

"He's a competitor," Schneider said. "If I had a choice between somebody who's passive or a competitor, I'll take a competitor every day. I'd rather have the guy I have to calm down a little bit over the guy I have to try and psyche up."

The Cahillites' improbable run from a two-win team in Catholic League play last season to title contender this season ended after N-G scored four runs in the third and added seven more in the fourth. The game, originally scheduled to be played at Widener, was moved because Widener's field was made unplayable by the weather.

Jerla (1-for-3, 2 RBI) started the scoring with a two-run, RBI-double with the bases loaded in the third. The seven-spot in the fourth came off three hit batters, two singles, an error and a walk.

For Roman, senior righty Joe Mangano started and took the loss. Seniors Mike Opiela crushed a double in the first, while Conor Smith ripped a double in the fourth. Jerla ended each threat via strikeout - one after Opiela's double and three after Smith and Connor McKenna reached base with no outs in the fourth.

"Me and Pat Doudican and Ethan Pritchett call ourselves the 'Big Three,' " said Jerla, who lives on the 1500 block of 2nd Street in South Philly. "We knew coming into the playoffs, it all relied on us to lead us here and further on for states and the city [titles]."

Doudican tied a city playoff record with six RBI and pitched the Saints to an 11-1 victory in Game 1 of the championship series, while Pritchett tossed a 3-0 shutout against Cardinal O'Hara in the losers' bracket finale.

According to TedSilary.com, Pritchett might also have become the first African-American pitcher to earn a CL playoff victory.

"When I first came in, everybody said we needed a 'Big Two,' but I felt immediately confident that we had a 'Big Three,' " Schneider said.

In the playoffs, Jerla allowed zero runs, nine hits, four walks and struck out 13 in three starts (3-0, two shutouts). Doudican went 2-0, tossed 18 innings, walked 11, allowed four earned runs on 13 hits and 16 strikeouts (1.56 ERA). Pritchett fanned 11 in his 12 innings, which included, nine hits, five runs and a 2.92 ERA. In total, the "Big Three" went 5-1 with a 1.54 ERA.

"It feels awesome," Jerla said. "I knew once we won on Wednesday, I'd have the ball, and I had to prepare myself. And, going out on top as a senior is a great feeling."


On Twitter: @AceCarterDN

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