Ryan’s Golden Opportunity

— After a 4-8 show­ing in 2012, Arch­bish­op Ry­an is hop­ing play­ers like All-Cath­ol­ic re­turn­er Con­nor Golden can carry the team fur­ther this sea­son.

Ath­let­ic teams with cham­pi­on­ship as­pir­a­tions of­ten speak of do­ing the “little things” right. Spend­ing count­less hours mas­ter­ing the fun­da­ment­al as­pects — while te­di­ous and some­times bor­ing  — is what sep­ar­ates the con­tenders from the pre­tend­ers at the end of a sea­son.

This thought is not lost on the Arch­bish­op Ry­an base­ball team, which found out the hard way on Sat­urday in a 10-8 home loss to St. Joseph’s Prep that giv­ing away just one ex­tra out can com­pletely change a game and its out­come.

“When you go out and play these Cath­ol­ic League games, they must be played in good qual­ity,” said Ry­an base­ball coach Ron Ger­hart. “If you make key mis­cues at in­op­por­tune times, it will lead to runs you don’t have to face.”

In the home half of the fourth, a straight single to cen­ter off the bat of Ry­an’s Bobby Ro­mano turned in­to a three-base field­ing er­ror, giv­ing the Raid­ers an ad­di­tion­al two runs and a 5-3 lead. 

However, prob­lems rose im­me­di­ately in the fifth. Start­ing pitch­er Con­nor Golden, who had been largely ef­fect­ive dan­cing his way out of ma­jor trouble, walked the first two bat­ters to lead off the in­ning. Ry­an’s num­ber two starter was bailed out by right­field­er Justin Price, who made a tre­mend­ous diving play to his right.

On the very next play, Prep’s Shane Wil­li­ams hit a laser right at Price, who made the catch; but in­stead of doub­ling off a wan­der­ing first base run­ner to end the in­ning, Price’s throw was lobbed and low, al­low­ing the run­ner to barely make it back to the bag. Golden hit his fourth bat­ter of the game to load the bases, and Prep catch­er Tim Rafter re­spon­ded with a three-run triple to left. Ry­an ral­lied with two in the fifth to tie the score at sev­en, but the Prep bats, now awake, wel­comed re­liev­er Rick Ro­mano (Bobby’s cous­in) with three runs and five hits in the sixth.

“Last year a lot of these guys were young, and they be­came aware that in these di­vi­sion games, it comes down to the little things both of­fens­ively and de­fens­ively,” Ger­hart said. “Un­for­tu­nately, we didn’t make a play and it cost us a ballgame.”

Luck­ily for Ger­hart and com­pany, it’s still tre­mend­ously early, and one field­ing mis­hap will not de­rail their sea­son. In fact, team de­fense may be one of the Raid­ers’ key strengths, as Ger­hart boasts a roster full of agile, quick play­ers who cov­er a lot of ground, as Price’s diving catch on the play be­fore the failed ex­change from right to first in­dic­ated.

An­oth­er cause for com­fort is the Ry­an lineup, which had man­aged 30 runs in four games when the Times went to press. With Bobby Ro­mano and Golden en­trenched in the three and four holes, Ger­hart has sur­roun­ded his most feared hit­ters with guys who con­sist­ently make con­tact when they swing the bat. In fact, ex­cept for left­field­er Gage Ga­le­one, every Raid­er reached base once (Ga­le­one fol­lowed up his hit­less day with a 3-for-3 game in a 7-4 win over Ro­man on Monday.) The sev­en and eight-hole hit­ters, Dylan Egan and Nick Centeno, each had run-scor­ing doubles against the Prep.

“We can score runs, and our pro­duc­tion of­fens­ively is good,” Ger­hart said. “It’s the pitch­ing that’s an un­cer­tainty.”

Ah, yes … pitch­ing. In ad­di­tion to need­ing to play sol­id, fun­da­ment­al base­ball to suc­ceed in the rig­or­ous Cath­ol­ic League Red Di­vi­sion (fea­tur­ing Ry­an, Judge, the Prep, La Salle, Ro­man Cath­ol­ic and O’Hara), teams also need mul­tiple, re­li­able arms to get them through a grind­ing sea­son that of­ten fea­tures three games a week.

The Raid­ers seem to have found their ace in seni­or Chris Elmes, who gave up just three hits and fanned sev­en in a con­vin­cing 9-2 win over reign­ing state champ La Salle on March 27. 

But Elmes can’t pitch every game, which is why guys like Golden and Rick Ro­mano (he fol­lowed up his shaky per­form­ance against the Prep by beat­ing Ro­man) will be so in­stru­ment­al to the team’s suc­cess. Golden, a ju­ni­or and re­turn­ing All-Cath­ol­ic se­lec­tion due to his bat, is giv­ing it a go on the mound des­pite not pitch­ing since be­fore he got to Ry­an. Also a line­back­er for the Raid­er foot­ball team, Golden had one-two-three in­nings in the second and fourth and really only ran in­to trouble when he gave Prep bat­ters free passes, walk­ing two and hit­ting four of them. If Golden can har­ness sporad­ic con­trol is­sues, he can cer­tainly be a ser­vice­able num­ber two starter on a team that ap­pears to have the pieces in place to make a run at a league crown.

“He pitched a little bit at the lower levels, but not for us,” Ger­hart said of Golden. “One thing we love that he brings to the table is that he’s such a fierce com­pet­it­or. He isn’t a high-strikeout guy, but he has de­ceiv­ing off­speed stuff. We just need him to throw strikes and keep us in games, which we be­lieve he can do. When Elmes isn’t throw­ing, we’d like to get four to five in­nings from these (oth­er) guys.”

So far, the Raid­ers are 2-2 in league play and 2-1 in their di­vi­sion. The losses have been tight (a com­bined three runs) and the win over last sea­son’s cham­pi­on was cer­tainly a pos­it­ive, es­pe­cially after the Ex­plorers outscored Ry­an 12-1 in their two meet­ings last year. In last week’s vic­tory, the Raid­ers took ad­vant­age of some key La Salle mis­cues; on Sat­urday, the Prep re­turned the fa­vor.

In a league so deep and so good, most of the close games will be won or lost on mis­takes lead­ing to ex­tra outs. Ger­hart un­der­stands this, and so does his team, he stressed.

“In this league es­pe­cially, you’ve got to make the routine plays,” he said. “When you pro­long in­nings and give any one of these teams one or two or three ex­tra chances, you’re in trouble. 

“It’s still early, and we’re pro­gress­ing along. We’re ex­actly where I thought we’d be be­fore the sea­son. The pitch­ing’s still a ques­tion, but we think our arms will step up to al­low us to be very com­pet­it­ive in the league. What I really am stress­ing with this group is to get them to get the feel­ing that every single pitch and play means something. Those routine plays you have to make will win or lose your ballgames.” ••

Sports Ed­it­or Ed Mor­rone can be reached at 215-354-3035 or em­or­rone@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at emorrone@bsmphilly.com.

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