Prep crushes title drought

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St. Joseph's Prep players hoist the championship trophy after the Hawks dismantled Archbishop Ryan in the title game.

MATT DOLAN will now leave St. Joseph's Prep with a coveted Catholic League championship. Just not in the sport he expected.

For a spurned lover, one this basketball-first kind of guy embraced fittingly on the rebound, baseball has been pretty darn nice to Dolan this spring. And he to it.

The Prep is indeed the CL kingpin for the first time in the league's 63-season "modern" baseball history (school records indicate a title was also won in 1925), and the lanky Dolan deserves to take as long a bow as anyone.

First, you need to know that the Prep yesterday sliced and diced Archbishop Ryan, 19-0, in a hard-to-fathom final in sweltering heat at Widener University, and that Dolan, who yielded his lineup spot to a designated hitter, had nothing to do with creating the offensive fireworks.

His job was to prevent 'em, and he did it well.

Dolan, a 6-5, 180-pound righthander, limited the Raiders to one hit in a game reduced to five innings by the 10-run mercy rule.

Also, he was a competent starter all season for sixth-year coach Chris Rupertus. And if anything were a giant-sized question mark for the Hawks during tryouts, it was pitching.

How important was Dolan's presence? Well, in this one, Ryan coach Ron Gerhart felt he needed to send to the mound a senior lefty, Kevin McGovern, going on 3 days' rest. Rupertus knew he'd be going with Dolan, assuming his squad reached the final (Kyle Mullen was the semifinal winner), as the regular season concluded May 16, and even told him so.

By that point, spurs had very much been earned.

Dolan was not around when the Prep began tryouts. Basketball season was still in progress and Dolan, a starting forward (but also the junior-varsity baseball MVP as a sophomore and then a no-show as a junior because he wanted to concentrate solely on hoops), had not yet committed to returning to baseball.

Then the Hawks fell to Roman Catholic in a CL quarterfinal on Feb. 24. There'd be a trip to the Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tourmanent during the third weekend in March. Dolan remained in the basketball fold, and asked for a chance to report thereafter.

Granted. Opportunity seized. By the throat.

"When he asked to try out, that was when I knew we were going to use him," Rupertus said, smiling. "Off what he'd shown as a soph, I knew we could count on him.

"We knew he'd be something special in his first outing. He threw three innings in a nonleague game. His fastball was popping and he was locating his offspeed stuff every time."

Said Dolan: "I wanted to win a title in basketball. We didn't do it. I wanted to go out with one. With baseball there was still that chance. I knew they needed pitching and decided to play."

Ryan's lone hit was Rob McArdle's infield single to lead off the third. Dolan walked two and drilled one and struck out two. His middle infielders, shortstop Steve Bruno and second baseman Brett Tiagwad, turned different-middleman doubleplays in the second and third.

As backup leftfielder Joe Squadroni caught a flyball to end it, ending a Sahara-level dry spell (there had been finals losses in 1962, '68, '94 and '06), the Hawks rushed out of the first-base dugout to form a pile of humanity. Joining in the fun were about 35 students who had hopped the fence in left-center.

The announcement asking fans to not hop the fence was, oh, only about 45 seconds too late.

Long before that, everyone was basically dazed. After a two-out infield bobble opened the door to a four-run first inning, the Prep added 13 in the second while sending 17 men to the plate.

That effort broke the CL title-game record for runs in an inning. Cardinal Dougherty's 1969 squad scored 12 vs. St. James in a 15-1 win that decided a three-game series. The 19-run spread is also a record; Archbishop Carroll thumped La Salle, 16-0, in 2002.

Bruno posted two hits in the inning, a single for one RBI and a double for two more. Jeff Lynch and Matt Fischer added two-run doubles (he had lined a two-run single in the first) and Tim Edger managed a two-run single. Dennis Murphy (two-run double in the first), Tiagwad and Sean McChesney stroked singles for RBI. The other run scored on a passed ball.

Final totals for the outburst: eight hits (three doubles), five walks and two hit-by-pitches.

By the latter stages, even the scoreboard operator had trouble keeping track. The Prep's run total was one to two runs behind.

"I'm a competitive guy," Dolan said. "I guess I would have preferred a closer game. But I'll take 19 runs. That's plenty.

"We're a great hitting team and it all came together today. They took all the pressure off me. That inning was amazing. I had to loosen up twice behind the dugout."

Said Fischer, the lone senior in the everyday lineup: "That second inning was just incredible. To see how we call came together like that . . . We were all a little astonished. Everyone had each other's back. We just kept going."

Rupertus was not surprised by his squad's mashing and bashing.

"The last couple of weeks, quite frankly, even our outs were hit hard," he said. "Once it gets rolling, nobody wants to be the guy to make the out. It's contagious. Everybody thinks they have a shot to get in a rip. When that happens, you get a crazy inning."

Fischer, a Roxborough resident bound for Philadelphia University, said the baseball Hawks began hounding Dolan (Chalfont, Dickinson; probably just basketball) at the very start of the school year.

"We'd see him in the hallways and it was always, 'We'd better see you at tryouts,' " Fischer said. "We figured the more we pounded it into his head, the better the chance of it happening.

"A big-game pitcher. That's who Matt Dolan is. He's been a key component this season."

Dolan likened the Hawks to the 2004 Boston Red Sox, whose world championship ended a drought that had lasted since 1918. Fischer made no such comparison, but did indicate psychic abilities.

"We knew we'd have a season like this," he said.

Through the numerous decades, many other Hawks probably "knew." These guys were able to do. *