Roman’s candles

Aidan Welch, left, and Santino Nave would love to have even brighter smiles at the end of the coming season.

Photo provided by Adam Gault

When taking to the mound for Roman Catholic High School’s baseball team, Santino Nave and Aidan Welch know their efforts will likely make them “the hero or the zero.” Having produced three successful seasons for the Center City site, the 18-year-olds have played the former role quite often and celebrated another moment as valorous victors last month, with Nave committing to Lock Haven University and Welch choosing Millersville University.

“We’ve worked hard to help this program to become strong, so it’s great to know where we’ll be heading next year as we prepare for what we hope will be an unforgettable senior season,” Nave said. “We have faith in our ability, and it’s nice that college programs saw that when looking at us.”

The Packer Park resident and his Whitman-based peer signed with their Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference institutions Nov. 14, beaming with pride as core members of the Cahillites club that has emerged as a Catholic League contender since 2014, the year it lost the championship to Ss. Neumann-Goretti High School.

“It’s really rewarding to think that we’ll be representing South Philly and Roman Catholic High School when we go to college,” Welch said. “Like Santino mentioned, we’re very fortunate for the opportunity to keep our love for baseball going.”

The adolescents’ adulation for the schools comes due to Lock Haven’s status as an up and coming unit and Millersville’s reputation as a title contender, with the Marauders having advanced to last year’s Division II final. Through the selection process, the young men nurtured “good feelings” concerning their eventual choices and look forward to being as instrumental for their squads as they have been for Roman Catholic.

“If you want anyone to look at you, you have to want to become stronger and, in our case, throw harder,” Nave, a third-team All-Catholic selection, noted with a nod from his second-team contemporary. “I think it all comes down to knowing yourself and being able to surround yourself with people who are going to be in your corner to push you along.”

The teenagers have possessed such positive presences in their lives since boyhood. Playing for the Delaware Valley Youth Athletic Association, they gained a great sense of the dedication that being a distinguished athlete would take, and they immersed themselves in the process as perennial teammates and sources of inspiration.

“We’ve always rooted pretty hard for each other,” Welch said. “We progressed through grade school knowing that we had a great grasp of fundamentals and could take that knowledge and help whatever team we’d be on to do well.”

The duo particularly came to enjoy pitching, with well-developed all-eyes-on-are-on-me mentalities proving a strong component to succeeding at the task. The Catholic League has always been a hurler-rich source, so when they enrolled at Roman Catholic, they knew that joining the ranks of the elite would require constant commitment to learning hitters’ tendencies and exploiting weaknesses.

“That’s what being competitive is all about — getting an edge over the other guy,” Nave said. “If that’s not who you are as an athlete, good luck having any success.”

When he and Welch entered the hallowed halls of Roman Catholic, the nation’s first Diocesan Catholic high school, the site looked to make up for its lack of diamond distinction, and Welch and Nave did not have to wait long to take part in the reversal of fortune, as the Cahillites made the aforementioned postseason run during their freshman year.

“What an amazing experience even though it didn’t go our way,” Nave said of the two-game sweep at the hands of the Saints. “I think we sensed that something special would come to us if we kept pushing ourselves.”

“Our coaches have been instrumental in increasing our confidence,” Welch added. “Ask the guys on this team, and they’ll tell you that this is shaping up to be a memorable year.”

To ascend to the top of the parochial perch, the pitchers know they will likely need to take their regular season accomplishments over Neumann-Goretti, which consist of consecutive shutouts, one a combined 10-inning masterpiece and the other a solo effort by Welch, and build on them in the playoffs. The Saints have won five out of the last eight championships, including this year’s crown, and figure to be right there in the hunt as usual.

“There are going to be some really talented teams out there,” Nave, the owner of a career 2.15 earned run average and 63 strikeouts said. “We’re supremely confident that we can get back to the title game but with a different result.”

“Everyone wants to go out as a winner,” Welch, a ’16 Carpenter Cup roster member, said. “We’re going to go into every game with that ultimate goal in mind.”

Once they conclude their high school tenures, the lifelong teammates will become members of conference rivals and admitted to hoping for a savory matchup opposite each other on the mound for the PSAC title.

“I know we’re going to do everything we can to give our respective teams a shot at glory,” Nave, a future health sciences major, said.

“Definitely,” Welch, who will pursue biology as his course of study, concurred. “That’s just how we conduct ourselves here already.” SPR

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