Knights on the town

Head coach Joe DeStefano considers the baseball players at Philadelphia Performing Arts: A String Theory Charter School “a calm group.” On Monday, the teenagers proved they also comprise a patient bunch, as they used a plethora of walks and timely hitting to blank Freire Charter School 15-0 at Citizens Adjusters Park, Seventh Street and Packer Avenue.

““We’re working on helping them to develop a bit more fire,” the resident of the 1000 block of Dickinson Street said of the work that he and assistants Eric Funaro and Mark DeJesse Jr. are doing with the second-year varsity club. “Their bond is amazing, though, and there have been some wonderful results for us so far in our history.”

Based in Center City yet filled with South Philly inhabitants, the team entered the afternoon tilt with a 6-0-1 mark. Having gone 11-1 in Division D league play last season, the Knights earned placement in Division C for this campaign, and DeStefano, with only three upperclassmen, knows each experience will prove instrumental in their maturation.

“We’re young, but they don’t use that as an excuse to take a long time to come together,” the Passyunk Square denizen said as his charges took the field. “They play ball and do it pretty well.”

Also the school’s athletic director and head soccer coach, DeStefano certainly cares about fielding quality squads, but he also wishes for them to be thankful for the opportunity to play. With a struggling foe and matchups against Prep Charter, 1928 Point Breeze Ave., a game that ended yesterday after press time, and The Arts Academy at Benjamin Rush taking place today, the hosts had hoped to make this occasion to compete a relatively stress-free one and received their wish, as their sizable lead resulted in a four-inning mercy rule decision.

The first frame saw sophomore hurler Frank Ponzio induce three groundouts, including two assists from fellow second-year contributor and third baseman Gianfranco Borgesi, last year’s divisional most valuable player. Ponzio ended up helping his own cause in the home half, drawing a walk and eventually coming home thanks to shaky defense from the guests. Two more groundouts helped to make the second inning a fast affair for the right-hander, and his contemporaries put together another run in the bottom portion thanks to some small ball, notably bunt singles from junior first baseman Curtis Newman and sophomore second sacker Joe Cammisa.

“You look at the final score, and you’d think we had no problems,” the latter figure, of the 1300 block of Dickinson Street, said. “However, we struck out way too much and didn’t attack enough. We have to correct that going forward because I want for us not only to win our division but to win a playoff game, too.”

DeStefano knows about enjoying postseason success, as he served as an assistant coach for Art Kratchman when the Pioneers from the Girard Academic Music Program, 2136 W. Ritner St., advanced to the 2012 Public League championship game. Excited about what feats he will observe as his players grow older and acquire that aforementioned supply of additional verve, he had to find their present allotment of enthusiasm impressive in the third inning.

Sending 13 men to the plate, the Knights absolutely drained the visitors’ vigor, with stolen bases, walks, and wild pitches making for a nightmarish stint for their likewise Center City-situated adversaries. Catcher Jason Della Valla played the ultimate hero in the baker’s dozen onslaught, stroking two singles, including a knock that cleared the bases thanks to shoddy defense and aggressive limbs.

“I think of us as a pretty solid team,” the reigning All-Public selection said. “It’s a great feeling to be a part of a team that’s so new because we’re making history each time we go out there.”

The resident of 15th Street and Oregon Avenue settled behind the dish in the fourth as Ponzio added two more punchouts to his tally yet sat out the bottom as DeStefano looked to empty his bench. Needing five scores to secure an early opportunity to enjoy the gorgeous late-day weather, the Knights, with five free passes as their chief beneficiaries, plated exactly that many and secured a no-hitter for their ace.

“There were definitely some things I noticed that we need to get better at,” DeStefano said, singling out being able to connect on faster offerings, as all but one of their outs came via a whiff. “We have goals going forward, but we can’t reach them if we’re not making consistent contact against everyone.”

“We lost right away in the playoffs last year,” Cammisa, who swiped two bags, recalled. “Nobody here wants to repeat that. I think our chemistry is better this year, and I think we’ve gelled more. We want to be a tough opponent for everybody no matter what division we’re in or where we play.” SPR

Contact Editor Joseph Myers at or ext. 124.

Sophomore backstop Jason Della Valla tallied two singles in the third inning, with the second coming with the bases loaded.

Photos by Tina Garceau