This year’s roller-coaster season took a couple more turns last week, with three straight losses on the account of Conestoga, the only team in the Central League that seemed capable of creating meaningful distance between itself and the pack. That leaves the Central league race wide open, and while the Catholic League squads struggle to get a foothold in the middle of the pack, only one team has truly taken the baton and run with it. Here’s this week’s rankings. (Records based on games through April 28.)
1. Haverford School (16-3) Last Week: No. 1
Of all the wins this season, Tuesday’s 10-inning triumph over Penn Charter might be the most impressive yet. To have Kevin McGowan step up with a game-tying homer with two outs in the seventh is exactly what you want your star players to do. They clubbed four homers and got 3.1 perfect innings from Justin Meyer to seal the win. You’d figure that the pitching depth of the Fords pays off on a day like Tuesday, and they proved it with a big win for their league title hopes.
2. Penncrest (8-4) Last Week: No. 2
Tyler Kight’s season could’ve tanked after getting shelled by Marple in the opener. Instead, he’s thrown, by my stats, 17 straight scoreless innings. Rob Brown is the epitome of a workhorse, and Matt Briner has been brilliant at times, but Kight gives manager Dan Sardella a playoff safety valve in case either of those two isn’t on. Plus, Kight’s been one of the bigger bats in a Penncrest offense that has still been going in fits and starts.
3. Archbishop Carroll (8-6) Last Week: No. 3
Carroll ended a two-game skid with a win over Lansdale Catholic Monday, powered by five strong innings from JJ Cicala and a reawakening of the offense. They still remain in the second tier of the Catholic League, below the likes La Salle (though they did beat the Explorers), Neumann-Goretti and Archbishop Wood. But middle of the road in a league as deep as the Catholic League still beats near the top of one as helter-skelter as the Central.
4. Bonner-Prendergast (7-5) Last Week: No. 3
The Friars have the pieces to be a good team. They have pitching, defense and what should be enough guys to get on base to produce significant runs. But they just can’t find that big bat in the middle of the lineup. Through 12 games, they have just one guy with double-digit hits (Dan Goggin with 13) and no one with more than six RBIs. If someone decides to heat up in the middle of the lineup, they could make an impact in the Catholic League playoffs, but that appears an increasingly sizeable if.
5. Haverford (8-4) Last Week: No. 6
The Fords’ win over Radnor Monday could prove crucial in the jockeying for playoff spots. The Fords get the benefit of the doubt here because they have been able to beat the good teams – Penncrest, Springfield, Strath Haven, Radnor. It’s about pitching, and in an extra-inning game against Radnor, the Fords’ hurlers didn’t buckle.
6. Radnor (7-5) Last Week: NR
The Haverford loss snapped a four-game winning streak, three of them in consecutive days last week. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it’s possible that the Raiders are the best hitting team in the Central League. They’re not the kind of roller-coaster, 12-runs-one-day, none-the-next team, but they’ve consistently done enough to win games. Now that Connor Wilson is back, that’s another table-setter for a bunch of middle-of-the-lineup guys who actually seem to be producing.
7. Strath Haven (7-6) Last Week: No. 7
Can someone get some runs for Ashton Raines? The kid is a gamer, having pitched long enough to get seven decisions this season. But he’s a mere 3-4. He allowed three unearned runs and got tagged with a loss against Conestoga and has lost 1-0 decisions to Haverford and Garnet Valley. Haven’s offense, much like Garnet Valley’s is the archetype for being up and down. Their run totals by game this season: 4-0-8-1-1-12-13-1-9-0-7-0. That’s the epitome of feast-or-famine.
Drops out: Episcopal Academy
Honorable mention: Episcopal Academy (10-13, The Churchmen have talent, they have some guys who can pitch, but they’re missing something. Maybe it’s this schedule that has resulted in 11 losses in 13 games, including nine straight at one point, that has beaten them down, but there’s just a spark missing); Garnet Valley (5-6, Mike Bechtold’s arm has helped stabilize the season for the Jags, who’ve won his last two appearances. Plus, the Jags passed the test of giant-killers Upper Darby with flying colors last week); Marple Newtown (7-8, The record is skewed by a three-game losing streak that included Malvern Prep and Haverford School. Marple is another team with potential, but we seem to be perpetually waiting for them to string together more than two wins, i.e. win on days that Grant Wallace doesn’t pitch); Springfield (6-7, The Cougars’ seven losses have come by a combined 16 runs. A bounce here or there against Bensalem, in extras against Garnet Valley, or against Harriton and this season looks much different. If they can go on a run and get into the playoffs, they might just have the pitching to pull an upset); Interboro (9-3, Tuesday’s win over Chichester essentially clinches the Del Val title for the Bucs).