Father Judge’s quest to move closer to its first Catholic League baseball championship since 2000 was in serious jeopardy.
The fifth-seeded Crusaders did not manage a hit against fourth-seeded and two-time defending champion Neumann-Goretti in the first six innings.
But Judge miraculously erupted for six runs in the seventh inning Monday and stunned the Saints, 6-3, Monday in a quarterfinal at 25th and Moore Streets in South Philadelphia.
“As long as there are outs left, we feel we have a shot to win,” Crusaders second-year coach Mike Metzger said. “I knew we weren’t done.”
With the bases jammed and one out, senior Nick Conway, who had taken over for ace hurler and Catholic League MVP Chuck Kelley in the fifth, delivered a one-out, two-run single inside the left-field line to make it 2-2.
“I was just looking for something to hit,” Conway said. “I wanted to put the ball in play somewhere, and was able to get around on a fastball.”
The next batter, Tim McLaughlin, produced a 3-2 edge with a hard-hit sacrifice fly to left. Tre’Sean Bouie’s stellar running catch kept Conway, who had moved to second base on a passed ball, from scoring.
After Billy Kelly drew a walk, Justin Murawski smacked a double to right field to plate Conway and Kelly and increase the lead to 5-2. The visitors added another run on Matt Spaeth’s RBI single to left.
“We were confident that we would eventually start getting hits,” Spaeth said. “It was a matter of time before good things happened.”
Judge will take on No. 1 seed La Salle in a semifinal at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Richie Ashburn Field in FDR Park. The host Explorers advanced Monday with a 2-1 triumph over archrival and No. 8 St. Joseph’s Prep, 2-1.
When Kelley eclipsed the 100-pitch limit in the fifth, Metzger handed Conway the ball. With baserunners at first and second and two out, the poised senior induced a groundout to third.
“Chuck and Nick are two of the most competitive kids I’ve ever coached,” Metzger said. “That’s why they’re both going to be successful in life.”
Neumann-Goretti junior Joe Messina had a no-hitter going (the Saints committed two errors) through six innings. He was pulled after Kelley and Andrew Sicinski led off the seventh with a walk and single, respectively.
Conway suffered a torn left labrum while playing football as a wide receiver for Judge in the fall. The injury caused the 5-foot-11, 180-pounder to miss all of basketball season.
After the Saints cut the gap to 6-3 in the seventh, Conway got the final out on a high pop to Spaeth at shortstop.
Father Judge 000 000 6-6 4 2
Neumann-Goretti 100 001 1-3 6 2
WP: Nick Conway. LP: Gabe Rappa. 2B: FJ-Justin Murawski.