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Saints perfect in several areas

Louie Delbrocco receives congratulations from coach Mike Zolk after hitting one of his two triples in a 14-0 victory over String Theory School in the PIAA District 12 Class 3A championship. Photo/Mark Zimmaro

Missing a year of baseball was tough on a lot of players and fans last year. Perhaps none were more disappointed than Louie Delbrocco.

Now a junior and starting left fielder for the Neumann-Goretti High School baseball team, Delbrocco is happy to simply have the game back in his life on multiple fronts. 

“I’ve been playing since I was born,” Delbrocco said with a smile. “My dad mostly got me into it. We’re just big Phillies fans. I can see the stadium from my house and I try to go every night. It’s really great. Last year was terrible not having it.”

It was twice as bad, as Delbrocco was hoping to make his debut for the Saints as a sophomore, but the pandemic had other plans, canceling the high school season before it got out of the batter’s box. He has made up for lost time, becoming one of the key contributors in Neumann-Goretti’s powerful lineup.

“He’s been great all year,” Saints coach Mike Zolk said. “Even though he’s in the eight-hole, I think a lot of people slept on him. But he’s produced with big RBIs all year in big spots. He gives you tough at-bats late in games and he’s a tough out at the back end of the order, which makes it tougher for (the opposition) to get through the lineup. He’s been great all year.”

Louie Delbrocco receives some advice from his first base coach after drawing a bases-loaded walk in Neumann-Goretti’s 14-0 victory over String Theory School in the PIAA District 12 Class 3A championship. Photo/Mark Zimmaro

Delbrocco got at least a share of the spotlight on June 3 in the PIAA District 12 Class 3A championship, as the Saints defeated String Theory School 14-0 at La Salle College High School. Delbrocco supplied a pair of RBI triples and later knocked in another run on a bases-loaded walk.

“I was just trying to put the barrel on the ball and hit it over the pitcher’s head,” Delbrocco said. “Not overthink it. When I try to pull, that’s when I get away from myself. Hitting the ball up the middle is my focus all the time.”

Despite Delbrocco’s big day at the plate, he was overshadowed by his teammate Kevin Opanel, who threw a five-inning perfect game, striking out 11 batters. The Saints’ ace didn’t allow a ball hit out of the infield all day.

Kevin Opanel delivers a pitch during his five-inning perfect game in a 14-0 victory over String Theory School in the PIAA District 12 Class 3A championship. Photo/Mark Zimmaro

“He only threw 10 balls on the day,” Zolk said. “He was dominant. That’s a performance I think he was craving. He’s had some great outings in the past and this season has been fantastic for him but that’s one to cap it off and hopefully it’s a preview of what we will see in states.”

He’d also love to see the offense continue to explode. Aside from Delbrocco’s two triples, Jimmy Gallo contributed a pair of RBI singles, A.J. McGettigan had a double and two walks, and Evan McCoach came off the bench to supply a two-run double in the fourth inning when the Saints tacked on eight runs during the frame.

Neumann-Goretti catcher Damian Suarez frames a called third strike, one of 11 punchouts for pitcher Kevin Opanel in a five-inning perfect game. Photo/Mark Zimmaro

It left a lot of time for Opanel to think about getting the final three outs of a potential perfect game.

“That was painful,” Opanel said. “It was brutal waiting. But I loved all the runs coming in to help close it out then. It was a long wait but it felt awesome.”

The game was a neighborhood rivalry in some sense, as many of the String Theory players call South Philly home. The Knights came into the game as the Philadelphia Public League Class 3A representative with nine wins and a division championship under their belt. 

Neumann-Goretti’s Kevin Opanel is congratulated by his teammates after securing a five-inning perfect game in a 14-0 victory over String Theory School in the PIAA District 12 Class 3A championship. Photo/Mark Zimmaro

“We were able to gain some experience and be competitive all season long,” String Theory coach Eric Funaro said. “We played a good team today so we knew we were running into some trouble, especially against their pitcher but we at least got to this point in time and got this experience.”

String Theory pitcher Gavin Boyd delivers a pitch against Neumann-Goretti in the PIAA Class 3A championship. Photo/Mark Zimmaro

The Knights battled with just 10 players in the game, and to both teams’ credit, String Theory faced Neumann-Goretti’s normal lineup and ace pitcher. No punches were pulled in an important game. 

“I know 95 percent of their team so I know how good their players are,” Funaro said. “I did like that we saw their best and we at least had a chance to give it our best. The outcome didn’t look like it, but we competed.”

Neumann-Goretti’s baseball team tips their caps to String Theory after the game. Photo/Mark Zimmaro

When Neumann-Goretti is clicking, there just aren’t many weaknesses to expose.

“We’re confident in every guy in the lineup,” Delbrocco said. “We know everyone can produce. Everyone can get a big hit. There are no holes in our lineup.”

Neumann-Goretti will face Trinity High School on June 7 at 1 p.m. at LaSalle College High School in the first round of the Class 3A State Tournament.

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