The calendar is about to turn to the last week of the regular season. That means jockeying for position with the last Central League game (or two, thanks to rain, for half the league) and the tattered remnants of the nonleague slate, or getting into the top 10 of the Catholic League for its tournament. There’s also an Inter-Ac title battle that will involve a Delco school until the final week. Here’s the updated rankings. (Records through Thursday, May 7.)
1. Haverford School (22-3) Last Week: No. 1
The Fords have found a way to collect wins every which way. They’ve played small ball and long ball. They can play low-scoring games or prevail in slugfests. They’ve managed to assemble a pitching staff that includes a bona fide relief option in Justin Meyer behind several able starters. The distance between them and any other team in this ranking is significant, and a share of the Inter-Ac title could be attainable.
2. Bonner-Prendergast (9-7) Last Week: No. 4
Something finally and decisively clicked with the Friars last week. They battled La Salle in a 3-2 loss, then beat Neumann-Goretti and handed Archbishop Wood only its second league loss of the season. Their only loss in the last four is a nine-inning setback to Archbishop Ryan. The difficulty of the schedule could’ve sent the Friars tumbling out of the playoff picture. Instead, they sit eighth in the league with winnable games against Cardinal O’Hara and Bishop McDevitt that could lift them as high as fourth or fifth. More importantly, the bats woke up last week, and Dan Goggin and Nick Bralczyk delivered back-to-back gems, which makes them a daunting postseason out.
3. Archbishop Carroll (9-7) Last Week: No. 3
The Patriots are a spot ahead of Bonner-Prendie with one league game (winless McDevitt) remaining. They’re guaranteed to be in the playoffs and are trying to edge up to earn a top-six bye. Carroll had lost three of four before outlasting Wood Thursday. That’s indicative of how wide open the Catholic League’s single-elimination tournament will be this season. The reason the Friars nudge ahead in this appraisal is that they seem the more likely to win the kind of 2-1, 3-2 games likely to characterize the PCL Playoffs. Carroll seems to rely more heavily on the bats, a tough task against a Catholic League deep in pitching talent.
4. Haverford (12-5) Last Week: No. 6
The Fords were a flared single from a share of their first Central League title since 1994. They’re still mathematically alive, but the door opening requires Conestoga losing to Upper Darby, which I’d categorize as highly unlikely. What remains true of the Fords, though, is that they appear to be a team built for the postseason. Scott McKenna is a legitimate ace, with plenty of able arms behind him. They are a fundamentally-sound team with a very good defense and enough clutch hitting and smart baserunning to grind out tight postseason results.
5. Penncrest (11-5) Last Week: No. 2
I’d been high on Penncrest all season, at least until the eight-error debacle that I witnessed on Monday against Marple. Some of that is due to injuries, the most notable being Nate Sides’ absence as the anchor of the infield at shortstop. They’re going to be in every game that Rob Brown and Matt Briner pitch. But the difference between Haverford and Penncrest in the postseason comes down to consistency. Penncrest may be capable of greater heights, but also greater lows (see the meltdown in Marple). If Penncrest is playing well, it’s as good as most teams in the area, but Haverford is the more likely of the two to summon that ability in the win-or-go-home playoff spotlight.
6. Marple Newtown (11-8) Last Week: NR
The baseball playoff setup doesn’t much care where you were in March; provided you do enough to quality, it’s all about how you’re playing in May. And Marple has won five straight games, including pummeling Penncrest, which makes them one of the hottest teams in the district. They’ve been the epitome of streaky all season (win two, lose three, win two, lose two, win two, lose three, win five), but that’s going in the Tigers’ favor now. The Tigers have averaged over nine runs per game in the winning streak, a number made more impressive given the dearth off offense leaguewide. Plus the 1-2 punch of Grant Wallace and Ricky Collings has come to look increasingly dangerous.
7. Radnor (9-7) Last Week: No. 6
Two straight losses (by a combined 18-3) have slowed the Raiders, even if the 10-0 win over Springfield Wednesday helped adjust that momentum swing. The fact that Connor Wilson is hitting again provides more balance to a lineup structured to play small ball. The Springfield win was also a nice bounce-back performance by Sean Corelli, who drew the loss to Marple last week. He led them to the playoff win last year, and there’s no reason to think the All-Delco won’t be the guy again in the Raiders’ playoff opener.
Drops out: Strath Haven.
Honorable mention: Episcopal Academy (11-16, things refuse to turn around for the Churchmen, whose only two Inter-Ac wins have come against league doormat Germantown Academy); Strath Haven (8-9, the Panthers just can’t score. They have 12 runs in their last five games and 19 in the last seven. They have scored just 10 times in their nine losses and won once in the last five games); Garnet Valley (8-7, winners of six of seven, the Jaguars improbably have life. Jeff Shanfeldt and Ben Faso have been raking, and with Mike Bechtold having won three straight starts – including against Conestoga – the Jaguars can be dangerous if they make the postseason); Interboro (13-4, the Bucs wrapped up a Del Val title Thursday; with Noah Brisach hitting well again to complement the pitching of Jason Lincoln, they are playing well at the right time).