John Grossi and his staff at Cardinal O’Hara had an inclination that he had a solid group of players. Wednesday, that group passed easily its stiffest test of the season, downing perennial power La Salle, 4-3.
The offensive star was John Banes, who doubled twice, including the game-winning two-bagger to drive home Colin McGuire, who reached on a fielder’s choice after Nick Newman led off the sixth inning with a single.
That came against reigning Catholic League pitcher of the year Dom Cuoci, who helped the Explorers to last year’s Catholic League title and the 2012 PIAA Class AAAA title. They got to Cuoci early, and even after he settled into the game and started posting zeroes, they were able to touch him up for another run in the sixth as he tired.
The pitching star for O’Hara was a bit of an unlikely face in Kevin George. Chris Fusaro started and didn’t have his best stuff, getting chased in the third inning as La Salle put up a three-spot to counter the three runs the Lions pushed across in the first. In came George, who played baseball his first two years of high school but focused on golf as a junior.
His return to the diamond as a senior has been a major, rotation-altering boon. With Banes, slated to be the closer this season in support of starters Fusaro and Will Latcham, waiting in the wings to finish out the game if needed, George just kept right on cruising. He finished by throwing 4.1 shutout innings, holding on in the seventh after McGuire plated the go-ahead run.
Grossi and company know that this isn’t the end of the season that matters, and there’s plenty of baseball to be played. But topping a team like La Salle reinforces the feeling that his team is on the right track.
“They’re a team you want to model yourself after,” Gross said of La Salle. “They’ve got like 24 kids, big kids, and they remind me a lot of Malvern Prep, very professional-like. To beat them this early in the season is good for our kids.”