Tyler Kehoe and Carroll hold off W.C. Rustin in state baseball opener

Archbishop Carroll’s Tyler Kehoe (9) steals third base in the first inning against West Chester Rustin.

Archbishop Carroll’s Tyler “Bugs” Kehoe could have tried to follow in his father’s footsteps and make his athletic mark on the hardwood.

R.C. Kehoe helped Roman Catholic win three Catholic League basketball championships in the 1990s, went on to play at Clarion and East Stroudsburg, and recently completed his seventh season as Holy Family’s head coach.

“Even when I was very young, I had a passion for baseball,” Tyler said. “I knew I wanted to concentrate on the sport and play it for a long time.”

On Monday afternoon, Kehoe’s versatility helped paved the way for Carroll’s 3-2 triumph over West Chester Rustin in a PIAA Class 5A first-round playoff at La Salle High’s Ward Field.

The 5-foot-10, 180-pound junior centerfielder and pitcher singled and scored in the Patriots’ two-run first inning, and took over for ace Jake Kelchner in the sixth and earned the save.

“He’s a cool customer, in control of his emotions in pressure situations,” Carroll coach Mike Costanzo said. “He doesn’t get rattled.”

Trailing by 2-1 in the visiting sixth, the Golden Knights touched Kehoe for back-to-back singles with two outs to load the bases. But the southpaw escaped on a groundout to second baseman Sean Lawley.

Kehoe flirted with danger again in the seventh. This time, after Nick Mariano’s two-out RBI double to left-center cut the gap to 3-2, the South Carolina recruit clinched the victory on another grounder to Lawley.

Were there any butterflies swirling in Kehoe’s stomach in the late going?

“I never really panic,” the 17-year-old said. “I have confidence in myself and I know my defense is going to pick me up when it’s needed. I enjoy going out there and battling.”

The Patriots (19-5) will take on the survivor of Monday night’s state opener between District 11 champ Blue Mountain and District 3 runner-up Cedar Cliff on Thursday at a neutral site and time to be determined.

Kehoe singled to right in the first, moved to second on Max Hitman’s walk, stole third base, and came home on Cole Chesnet’s sacrifice fly to right. Kelchner made it 2-0 with an RBI single up the middle.

“Tyler sets the table for our middle-of-the-lineup guys,” Costanzo said. “He’s very focused, a student of the game, and he’s a good teammate.”

Carroll’s Trent Pierce produced the deciding run against W.C. Rustin (12-12) in the sixth. The No. 7 batter led off with a triple to right and scored on a wild pitch.

R.C. Kehoe long ago started calling his eldest son, “Bugs.”

“I was an annoying kid and I had big eyes,” Tyler said with a laugh. “The nickname just stuck.”

West Chester Rustin 010 000 1-2 6 2

Archbishop Carroll 200 001-3 7 2

WP: Jake Kelchner. LP: Jake Geissler. 2B: WCR- Pat McDonough, Alec Bales, Nick Maiorano; AC-Kelchner. 3B: AC-Trent Pierce.