Given the early (premature?) completion of the baseball season, there’s been plenty of time to ponder and craft this final Super 7. In shorter supply, however, are reasons to deviate from the order posted at the end of the regular season. After all, it’s hard to make cases for teams that don’t win in the postseason. In any event, here’s the final Super 7 of the 2014 season, which ran in the paper this week alongside the All-Delco team.
1. Garnet Valley (14-4)
What looked like a significant upset on paper when it occurred turned out to be anything but, as the Jags, the No. 2 seed in the South of District One, bowed out to eventual district champ Methacton in the second round of the tournament. It almost makes you wonder how far the Central League champs could’ve gotten with a more favorable pairing. Then again, it’s no secret that in baseball, the north absolutely owns District One (save for the rare incursion of Conestoga or Coatesville), and it held true this year with six of the quarterfinalists and three of the semifinalists haling form the north. The Jags made good this year on a senior-heavy staff featuring Chance Malek and Nick Bulisky. For all the offensive firepower that returns via All-Delcos Ben Faso and Jeff Shanfeldt, rebuilding the pitching staff will be a major task.
2. Cardinal O’Hara (14-8)
Having beaten eventual PIAA champion La Salle once this year, the Lions surely regretted not being able to stop the magical, out-of-left-field run by Roman Catholic in the winners’ bracket final of the Catholic League tournament to earn a spot in the championship series. I imagine they would’ve mustered more resistance than Roman in getting romped by La Salle there. In any event, O’Hara held its own in a deep and parity-ridden Catholic League this year. Plenty of ingredients, including a deep lineup, return for next season.
3. Strath Haven (13-6)
If not for the team four spots below them, the Panthers would be the top team to watch next season. They lose just five seniors, three of whom (Player of the Year Kevin Mohollen, pitcher Dan Enterlin and second baseman Nate Engleka) contributed to a first-round bye and second-round loss in districts. All seven of the spots vacated by seniors after their perfect regular season in 2013 were occupied by underclassmen who had a heck of a rebuilding year and will only improve as time goes on. Will Carey and Ashton Raines are a potent one-two pitching punch, and James Kantner and Corey Ziring anchor a really impressive outfield.
4. Radnor (13-8)
Speaking of losing little, Sean Corelli – the star of the lineup and the pitching staff – returns for yet another year. Connor Wilson has two more years. Mark Jordan was forced into taking some lumps by trotting out youngsters for the last few years thanks to a Raiders program that is traditionally challenged in the numbers department. It paid dividends last year when a strong senior class won the program’s first playoff game in decades, and given the success of the youthful squad this season in duplicating that success in Districts, the talent ceiling is quite high.
5. Bonner-Prendergast (13-7)
I suspected this would be a rebuilding year for the Friars, a team split fairly evenly along class lines. The senior class is no slouch, but the better talent (in my mind) still has a year (or more) left to flourish. Richie Tecco, Nick Bralczyk, Dan Goggin, Nick Lazer and Steve Furman all return next year to form the core of what they hope to be a more formidable side than this year’s.
6. Haverford School (18-10)
The Fords took their lumps, when injuries and graduation forced them to start several freshman. The infield grew together, with an all-freshman left side (third baseman Tommy Toal, shortstop David Hogarth) plus Kevin McGowan at second who is still just a junior after two All-Delco nods. Combined with the success of Ryan Fuscaldo (a junior) in the outfield and the continued impressive development of sophomore catcher James McConnon, the Fords are in good shape. If they can find some arms to supplement highly-regarded freshman Tyler Dunbar, they could challenge next year.
7. Penncrest (12-7)
Here’s the squad to keep an eye on. They return seven starters, the only notable replacement being center fielder Ronnie DiMatteo (who had an admittedly down year). Third baseman Steve Moppert should fill the role in the outfield with ease. The rest of the team returns as is. Matt Briner is already the best first baseman in the county. Nate Sides is a stellar defensive shortstop with a developing bat. Billy McCarthy is a veteran behind the plate. Rob Brown (off a dazzling Carpenter Cup run), Briner and Tyler Kight (who can also contribute as a DH when not throwing) constituted one of the best pitching staffs this season. Opposing coaches recognize it already: This Penncrest team could do some big things next year.
Honorable mention: Christian Academy (14-3; failing to repeat as Tri-State Christian Conference tournament champions after waltzing to the regular-season title is a down note); Chichester (13-4; claiming that elusive Del Val title marks a great accomplishment for Joe Thomas’ guys); Marple Newtown (11-9; the peaks and valleys in performance this season are something they need to iron out in the future; sophomore Ricky Collings is a pretty good piece to build around); Interboro (15-4; Failing to win a Del Val title means the Bucs fell short of their perennial goal. But they graduate just four seniors, not including second-leading hitter Billy Ketler and top pitchers Sean Menold (if not injured), Shaun Douglass and Jason Lincoln. There are bright days ahead.)