Growing pains for Ryan's baseball team

Num­ber 26 Pitch­er Nick Cento, Arch­bish­op Ry­an vs. Holy Ghost Prep non-league base­ball, Sat­urday, April 7, 2012. (Donna Di Paolo)


Arch­bish­op Ry­an’s base­ball team on Sat­urday af­ter­noon un­der­went a Dr. Je­kyll/Mr. Hyde-like game at Holy Ghost Prep.

The first four in­nings re­sembled Dr. Je­kyll and saw the young Raid­ers jump all over Ghost, ra­cing to a 5-0 lead by way of strong pitch­ing, crisp field­ing and a solo home run by sopho­more second base­man Bob Ro­mano.

For a team that gradu­ated three of its best play­ers in Eric Frain, Kev­in Mack and John Rizzo, this was a pleas­ure for head coach Ron Ger­hart to wit­ness, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing this game rep­res­en­ted one fi­nal tun­eup be­fore the Raid­ers get in­to the thick of the mine­field that will be their Cath­ol­ic League sea­son.

Un­for­tu­nately for Ry­an, Mr. Hyde showed up seem­ingly on cue in the bot­tom of the fifth.

Fresh­man catch­er Josh Lopez, who had been thrust in­to the start­ing lineup due to an in­jury to starter Matt Graber, had a dy­nam­ite start to the game, crush­ing an op­pos­ite field double in the second and throw­ing out two run­ners at second base (one on a pick­off, the oth­er on an at­temp­ted steal). But Lopez showed his age in the fifth, mak­ing two field­ing gaffes that were part of a three-run Ghost in­ning that gave the op­pon­ent new life. He also made a base-run­ning er­ror in the sixth, get­ting cut down at third base on a ground­er to short with no outs that could have been a cru­cial in­sur­ance run.

“I think what you saw out there was the good and the bad all wrapped up in one,” Ger­hart said. “These young guys are still learn­ing, so they’re go­ing to make great plays and then come back and make some mis­takes. It’s called be­ing a fresh­man and a sopho­more, and we can live with that as long as they keep the right at­ti­tude and learn from their mis­takes.”

Ger­hart was also quick to ab­solve Lopez.

“He’s a fresh­man that has little-to-no ex­per­i­ence play­ing at this level, and I’m more fo­cused on the good things he did for us,” Ry­an’s boss said. “His in­stincts are great be­hind the plate, as he showed when he cut down two guys at second, and he also was on base all three times he came to bat. He’s cer­tainly a varsity play­er, and when he came out of the game I told him to keep his head up and not worry about the down mo­ments. This is base­ball and these are young kids, so that kind of thing hap­pens.”

Ger­hart ex­pec­ted grow­ing pains after los­ing most of his key play­ers from 2010’s Cath­ol­ic League run­ner-up team to gradu­ation each of the last two sea­sons. Third base­man Zach Za­jac was the only seni­or in the start­ing lineup, though Matt Budny (broth­er of former Raid­er catch­er Colin, who was in at­tend­ance on Sat­urday), Ry­an Jerdan and Kyle Slaw­ter all played later in the game, and Mike Anusky is ex­pec­ted to be a key con­trib­ut­or when he re­turns from a knee in­jury.

On of­fense, Ro­mano was the standout for the Raid­ers. The sopho­more reached base in all four of his at-bats, singling and steal­ing a base in the first, rip­ping a solo homer to left in the third and loft­ing a high-fly ball to right with the bases loaded in the fourth that was mis­played in the Ghost out­field and cleared the bases.

On the mound, sopho­more Nick Centeno fired three sco­re­less in­nings, while ju­ni­or An­thony Crespo was ef­fect­ive in his one in­ning of work and Budny was sharp and be­set by poor de­fense in his two in­nings. South­paw Slaw­ter came on to try to pre­serve a 5-4 lead in the sev­enth, and al­though he yiel­ded two walks, a double steal and the game-win­ning two-run single to Ghost’s Cole Long, Ry­an’s top pitch­er looked sharp and should be ef­fect­ive in league play.

“Ob­vi­ously I was real happy with what I saw from the young guys in Bob, Nick and Josh,” Ger­hart said. “I’m pleased with how our young guys have stepped up so far. They’re en­thu­si­ast­ic, and they need this ex­per­i­ence if they want to win the tough games in the Cath­ol­ic League. We need con­tri­bu­tions from our seni­ors too, but either way, the fu­ture of Ry­an base­ball is very bright.”

Though the fu­ture of the pro­gram is cer­tainly bright, the Raid­ers are ready to see how they stack up in the al­ways-gruel­ing Cath­ol­ic League. As the Times went to press, the Raid­ers were 1-2 with­in Cath­ol­ic League Red Di­vi­sion play, while hold­ing a 2-3 over­all re­cord.

“I think the best word to de­scribe us right now would be ‘un­cer­tainty,’” Ger­hart said. “I’m un­cer­tain how we’re go­ing to re­spond in our league, es­pe­cially when you see two dif­fer­ent teams out there as was the case against Ghost today. One in­ning, we were mak­ing ter­rif­ic plays, and the next we looked faulty, so I’m hop­ing we con­tin­ue to stay fo­cused and grind through it. Every Cath­ol­ic League game is a brawl, so all we can do is fight through it.”

Ry­an’s vet­er­an coach knows suc­cess on the dia­mond won’t come easy, but after guid­ing two straight over­achiev­ing teams to play­off berths, Ger­hart knows an un­for­giv­ing league slate al­ways has the power to of­fer some sur­prises as the sea­son pro­gresses.

“For us, it’s vi­tal that we don’t get too high or too low this sea­son,” he said. “If we stay fo­cused and work hard every day to get bet­ter, then we can cer­tainly be a factor in the play­off pic­ture. We’ll be fa­cing some tre­mend­ous com­pet­i­tion the rest of the way, but if things break our way a little bit and we stay to­geth­er as a team, then I don’t see any reas­on why we can’t be a play­off con­tender.” ••


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