The defending Catholic League and PIAA Class 2A champs are hungry for more
By Bill Gelman
The words “team to beat” or the bullseye symbol may not actually appear on the jersey of the Ss. Neumann-Goretti baseball players, but the team and the coaches are well aware all of the other Philadelphia Catholic League and PIAA Class AA teams are chasing them. It comes with the territory of winning six out of the last nine Catholic League titles and back-to-back state crowns. But the high-pressure, high-stakes approach is one this East Passyunk Crossing-based squad thrives on season after season, and head coach Mike Zolk knows his players are up for the challenge.
“Now, especially with the group of guys we have, I think we have a bigger target than ever,” he said. “We embrace it. It gets the kids fired up. It gets me fired up. We have a tough group of kids.”
The roster includes four returning All-Catholic selections led by senior center fielder and leadoff hitter Colin Eiser, who hit .343 last season. The varsity veteran, who also pitches, will be continuing his baseball career at Rider University. Classmate and starting shortstop Aidan Baur led the Saints with 29 runs in 2017 and finished with a .325 batting average. He has committed to Newberry College where he will be following in the footsteps of older brother Albert Baur, who is now in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. RJ McGettigan, first baseman/outfielder, also brings a strong bat to the lineup as he hit .402 with 19 RBIs last spring. He has committed to Immaculate University. The pitching staff includes junior pitcher Joe Messina, who is coming off a 5–1 sophomore season that included three saves. He is receiving D-I interest.
Senior Joe LaFiora, who has committed to Newberry College, is returning from Tommy John surgery. He is a designated hitter/first baseman who could see time on the mound later in the season.
Junior catcher Eric Nardini has started every game since freshman year, and is expecting to once again provide strong defense behind the plate along with a steady bat. Gabe Rappa is a junior pitcher who is expecting to anchor the pitching staff with Messina and Eiser. Seniors Adam Jaep, second base, Billy D’Ambrosia, third base, and Joe Mastrobuoni, second and third base, are expected to fill in the lineup.
Whether they’re new additions or returning veterans, all of the players share a strong bond between one another. It includes supporting one another on the field and enjoying lunch together at the local Chick-fil-A.
“The older guys are great from a baseball standpoint,” Zolk said. “Their baseball influence is second to none. … They are all best friends, which makes it a lot easier to win together.”
The returning players are well aware of what it takes to win it all, as a result of last year’s 23–4 season, which included a 9–3 regular-season record against Catholic League teams. The Saints defeated Archbishop Wood, 6–4 in the Catholic League final, and Bishop McCort, 7–4, in the state final.
Neumann-Goretti will open the Catholic League season today against Conwell-Egan. Zolk said the whole Catholic League is looking pretty good this season, so the road to a championship repeat will include its share of speed bumps along the way.
“The league is at its best, I think, especially with pitchers,” Zolk said. “The league is up in the air. I anticipate us being [in the the championship] again.”
March 28 Devon Prep, W 8–3
March 31 Springside/Chestnut Hill, W 1–0
April 3 St. Joe’s Prep. PPD
April 5 Conwell-Egan Home, 4 p.m.
April 7 Council Rock North Away, Noon
April 9 Bonner-Prendie Home, 4 p.m.
April 11 La Salle Home, 4 p.m.
April 14 Malvern Away, Noon
April 18 Lansdale Catholic Home, 4 p.m.
April 23 Archbishop Ryan Away, 4 p.m.
April 25 Archbishop Carroll Away, 4 p.m.
April 26 Caravell Academy Home, 4 p.m.
April 30 Archbishop Wood Away, 4 p.m.
May 2 Cardinal O’Hara Home, 4 p.m.
May 5 Episcopal Academy Home, 2 p.m.
May 7 Bishop McDevitt Away, 4 p.m.
May 9 Roman Catholic Away, 4 p.m.
May 14 Father Judge Away, 4 p.m.
May 15 Bishop Eustace Away, 4 p.m.
Neumann-Goretti’s home field is located at 26th and Moore streets.