Father Judge suffered its third extra-inning loss of the season Monday night in a 4-1 setback against visiting Neumann-Goretti.
The positive associated with the latest tough-luck defeat is that the Crusaders don’t have to wait long for a shot at redemption.
Weather and field conditions permitting, senior standout Chuck Kelley and Co. will visit the two-time defending Catholic League champs in a playoff quarterfinal at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at 25th and Moore Streets.
“Monday’s game is behind us,” Kelley said Tuesday. “We’re going to go in there and play with a lot of confidence. I like our chances.”
Kelley has shined for Judge the last two seasons as an ace righthander and first baseman. He had big shoes to fill on the mound when he took over for Dan Hammer last year.
Kelley and Hammer trained with Chuck Bushbeck at an indoor facility on State Road in Northeast Philly. “I liked the attitude he brought to the game,” Kelley said of Hammer. “Guys wanted to beat him, and he wasn’t going to let that happen.”
Kelley, who is scheduled to start against Neumann-Goretti, is 5-1 with a 0.70 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 40 innings. He has allowed 10 walks and four earned runs.
The 6-foot-1, 215-pounder mixes a fastball in the high-80 m.p.h. range, a slider, and a change-up. “The slider has always been one of my best pitches because I can locate it and throw it for strikes,” he said.
In a 6-2 win at Archbishop Wood last week, Kelley fired an eight-hitter with eight whiffs and no walks. “He throws hard and challenges hitters,” said Judge’s second-year coach, Mike Metzger. “He’s a very competitive person.”
On Wednesday, Kelley was voted the Catholic’s League’s most valuable player. He was a first-team selection as a pitcher and second-team pick as a first baseman.
Kelley, a second-team all-Catholic selection last season, is batting .339 with 11 RBIs, seven runs, four doubles, and a triple. He has a .446 slugging percentage, a .439 on-base percentage, and an .885 OPS.
“I have the power to hit home runs, but I just try to work the gaps,” said the 18-year-old who lives in Rhawnhurst.
Judge’s pitching rotation also features righthanders Nick Conway, Matt Spaeth, and Steve Leopold. Conway yielded only one run and five hits through five innings against Neumann-Goretti.
Spaeth, who is bound for Cumberland County Community College in South Jersey, doubles as a shortstop. The first-team all-Catholic choice is batting .352 with 14 RBIs, 12 runs, and five doubles.
“He does everything we ask him to do, and he’s one of our best defenders,” said Metzger, a shortstop for Judge’s 1987 Catholic League championship squad.
The other offensive spark plugs for the Crusaders (14-6 overall, 8-4 league) are leadoff man Tim McLaughlin, a rightfielder and catcher, outfielder Billy Kelly, designated hitter Justin Murawski, and catcher Andrew Sicinski. Murawski was a first-team all-Catholic pick; Kelly earned third-team honors.
Also in the mix are third baseman Niko Conti, middle infielder Sean Levan, centerfielder Bill Dougar, and first baseman/pinch-hitter Bernie McGuire. As a pinch-hitter against Neumann-Goretti, McGuire delivered an RBI single to left-center field in the fifth to give the hosts a 1-0 edge.
Kelley, who played last summer in showcase events for Bill Angelini’s Whiz Kids, is headed for Harford Community College in Bel Air, Md.
“The facilities are great, the coaches are great, and I was given a warm welcome when I went down there,” he said. “Harford sends a lot of players off to good Division I programs.”