At the next level, either at Alabama or with a Major League Baseball affiliate if he gets selected in next month’s amateur draft, Jake Kelchner’s focus will be on pitching.
But in a Catholic League semifinal against Delaware County neighbor Cardinal O’Hara, Archbishop Carroll’s lefthanded ace made a huge impact with his bat.
Kelchner smacked an RBI triple to right-center field in the first inning and ripped a two-run home run in the same direction in the fifth as the Patriots doubled up the Lions, 10-5, Wednesday at La Salle High’s Ward Field.
“Before my junior year, I focused a lot on my hitting,” said 6-foot-2, 200-pound senior, who was in the lineup as a designated hitter . “I guess that extra work carried into this season.”
With Carroll ahead by 5-4, Kelchner jumped on a change-up and sent it over the fence for his second homer of the year. “I took a big hack at it,” the cleanup man said.
Kelchner’s triple in the first also came on a change-up. “It was up in the zone, and I was looking to hit it as hard as possible,” he said.
The second-seeded Patriots will try to capture their first Catholic League crown since 2004 when they take on top-seeded La Salle on Saturday at noon at Immaculata University.
On the mound, Kelchner is 6-0 with a 0.78 ERA and 64 strikeouts in 36 innings. He has allowed only four earned runs.
“He’s an all-around great player,” Carroll coach Mike Costanzo said. “On top of that, he’s a great teammate. He’s the complete package.”
Carroll put the game away with three more runs in the home sixth. Shortstop Max Hitman (2-for-3, two runs) and catcher Cole Chesnet (3-for-4, two runs) produced back-to-back RBI singles.
First baseman and No. 7 batter Trent Pierce put the Patriots (17-4) ahead for good in the fourth with a two-run single up the middle. “We have a very tough lineup, top to bottom,” Costanzo said.
No. 3 seed O’Hara (13-7) was trying for its first league crown since 2003. Centerfielder Nick Kutufaris (3-for-3) and second baseman Joey Sperone (2-for-3, two runs) paced the Lions’ 10-hit attack.
“We ran out of bullets on the mound,” O’Hara coach Tom Grandieri said. “We couldn’t get the shutdown inning when we needed it.”
Cardinal O’Hara 010 211 0-5 10 1
Archbishop Carroll 101 233 X-10 9 2
WP: Tyler Kehoe. LP: Bryan Pazulski. 2B: AC-Dan Crossan, Cole Chesnet. 3B: CO-Joey Sperone; AC-Jake Kelchner. HR: AC-Kelchner.