Crown princes of baseball

Nicky D’Amore played the hero for the Saints, producing a two-run single that proved the difference in the Saints’ victory.

Photos by Tina Garceau

Expectations can rattle recipients, but because those who don a Ss. Neumann-Goretti High School, 1736 S. 10th St., baseball jersey learn a thing or 50 each time they take the field, meeting and exceeding those hopes strike the athletes as exciting endeavors never to fear. After a somewhat frustrating handling of the first two-thirds of their Catholic League slate, the Saints, 1736 S. 10th St., registered four consecutive wins, the last coming Monday with a 3-1 triumph over Archbishop Carroll.

“I don’t care about the early struggles,” third-year coach Kevin Schneider said to the East Passyunk Crossing-based club following the victory at McNichol Field, 26th and Moore streets. “We’re where we need to be right now.”

In running their record to 12-6, his charges finished a busy stretch that included five games in eight days, with the Carroll result teaming with league decisions over Bishop McDevitt, Bonner-Prendie, and Conwell-Egan and Saturday’s Senior Day win over Prep Charter, 1928 Point Breeze Ave., to give them a perfect journey. Based on the four-game sweep against parochial opposition following a 3-5 start, the Saints earned the postseason’s fifth seed and will face Roman Catholic in Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. road quarterfinal matchup.

“We needed to work out some problems, and I think we’ve made good adjustments,” third baseman and number three hole hitter Nicky D’Amore said. “Our goal is to sweep the titles, and we definitely feel ready for any test.”

The resident of the 2400 block of South Hicks Street and his peers enjoyed a fine year last season, falling in the Catholic League and State title finals and claiming the District 12 Class AA City championship. Hankering to help his squad to make history, the senior leader knew the regular season finale would serve as a sign that they have regained their swagger and set out, as he has always done, to give them the best chance to thrive.

“When I came here, I knew about the winning tradition and wanted to continue it,” the 18-year-old said of a stretch that yielded league plaques in 2009, ’11, and ’12, with another crown coming in his sophomore campaign. “I’m pretty fortunate to play for such a great program because Neumann-Goretti is my whole life, and I love it.”

Entering the tilt against their Radnor-based adversaries in the middle of the playoff pack, the Saints sent senior right-handed Jeff Ciocco to the hill. The future Western Kentucky University Hilltopper surrendered a first-inning score, but his mates seemed destined to deliver a swift reply in the home half, with leadoff man Brian Verratti stroking a double and advancing to third on an error. D’Amore would reach on a walk and swipe second, but the Saints had their patience tested when two whiffs ended the frame. Similar frustration occurred the next inning with two more runners left lonely on the bases. Over the next two innings, though, persistence would pay off for the hosts.

Over its storied run since 2009, Neumann-Goretti has always had roster members worthy of star status, but it has built a reputation as a foe that can find ample ways to win thanks to total devotion to the team dynamic.

“That’s really what drew me here,” D’Amore said of joining the unit. “I just knew that the people here would want to help me to develop as a person.”

With tutelage coming through the Delaware Valley Youth Athletic Association, 2840 S. 18th St., and the Del-Val Senators under coach Joe Gorman, father of ’12 Neumann-Goretti alumnus and two-time titlist Joey Gorman, he entered Neumann-Goretti with the sincere and very practical hope that he would continue to strengthen its status as a perennial contender. Thanks in large part to him and Verratti, his teammate since age 7, the Saints have received amazing input from their seniors. No matter how diligent athletes’ voices are, though, limb lead to laurels, and the locals tied the contest in the third, with sophomore right-fielder Colin Eiser coming home on a double play ball.

“Every team in this league is competitive, and that’s what makes every game a challenge,” D’Amore said of welcoming the Patriots, owners of a 4-7 mark in the 13-team league. “We were in a fight [for postseason seeding], so we had to get it done today.”

After Ciocco completed his final inning, the Saints would go on to make him the pitcher of record in the fourth, with D’Amore plating sophomore designated hitter Joe LaFiora, who no-hit Archbishop Ryan April 6, and Verratti off an infield pop that held up in the air for what seemed like a lifetime before dropping fair around halfway between home plate and first base.

“You have to write that it was a laser single,” assistant coach Nicky Nardini, another championship bearer, told yours truly of how to describe the fortunate hit.

D’Amore likewise found the at-bat funny, and he flashed additional smiles over the next three innings as Ethan Pritchett, who will join him at Wagner University, allowed only one baserunner and twice struck out the side. Reflecting on his team’s late regular season push, the hot corner helmer did not find the success at all unexpected.

“When you play for this team, you learn to give it all for your boys,” D’Amore said. “In fact, if you’re not prepared to be like that at this time of year no matter what team you’re on, you’re not going far.” SPR

Contact Editor Joseph Myers at or ext. 124.

Nicky D’Amore played the hero for the Saints, producing a two-run single that proved the difference in the Saints’ victory.

Photos by Tina Garceau
Nicky D’Amore played the hero for the Saints, producing a two-run single that proved the difference in the Saints’ victory.

Photos by Tina Garceau