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Baseball: Cuoci, Explorers top shorthanded Raiders


Nick Dermo says there's very little pregame chatter between him and Dom Cuoci, his batterymate and La Salle's ace hurler, prior to one of Cuoci's scheduled starts.

"He's a bit independent," the senior backstop said. "It's best to leave him alone, let him listen to his music. You know he's going to be ready to go to work."

Even while nursing a middle-back injury, Cuoci answered the call again Saturday. With the senior righthander yielding only three hits though six innings, the host Explorers topped Archbishop Ryan, 6-3, in a Catholic League Red Division contest at sun-soaked Ward Field.

Cuoci said he tweaked his back in last Monday's win over Ryan. "It's kind of a wincing pain," the 6-foot-3, 210-pounder said. "It's not too bad. I took a couple of aspirin in the morning. It was kind of wearing off toward the end of the game."

Though he reached for his back while allowing three consecutive hits and two runs in the seventh, Cuoci, following a brief chat with La Salle skipper Joe Parisi, put the finishing touches on a six-hit triumph.

"As a competitor, you want to go the whole way," Cuoci said. "At the same time, you understand that it's the coach's call. He makes the final decision."

On 99 pitches, with 77 for strikes, the St. Joseph's commit registered eight strikeouts. He mixed a fastball clocked in the mid-80-m.p.h. range, slider, and change-up.

Cuoci closed La Salle's latest victory by getting Ryan's Bobby Romano, a hard hitting senior shortstop and Fairleigh Dickinson recruit, to ground out to third base.

"Right there, you saw the competitive juices flowing on both sides," Parisi said of the duel between Cuoci and Romano.

Cuoci, who doubles as a third baseman, is 2-1 with a 4.05 ERA. In 21 2/3 innings, the 18-year-old, who last year was an Inquirer first-team all-Southeastern Pennsylvania pick, has whiffed 27 and walked just one.

"I think he's the best pitcher in the Catholic League," Ryan first-year coach Gerry Eck said. "He's very poised, keeps hitters off-balance."

Cuoci, with a .444 batting average (12 for 27) from the cleanup spot, spent the winter months as a reserve for La Salle's basketball squad, which advanced to the PIAA Class AAAA championship game in Hershey.

"It was a fun ride, and I really enjoyed the time I spent with the coaches and the guys on the team," he said. "Also, it helped me stay in shape for baseball."

Down by 1-0 against Ryan, the Explorers (9-2 overall, 7-2 league) scratched out single runs in the third and fourth. A four-run sixth was highlighted by RBI singles from Brian Buckley, Ryan Coonahan, and A.J. Grezeszak.

La Salle has has been led at the plate by Coonahan (.486), an outfielder, Dermo (.485), and second baseman Brad Schneider (.447). On the hill, senior lefty John Scheffey is 4-0 with a 2.74 ERA and 15 K's in 23 1/3 innings.

The Raiders (3-6, 2-6) were missing a few regulars due to disciplinary problems.

In the visiting seventh, Gerry Eck (infield single) scored on Joe Iannacone's bloop double to right field and Matt Pagaigle (single to third base) came home on Paul Rocchi's groundout to second.

Archbishop Ryan 100 000 2-3 6 1

La Salle 001 104 X-6 5 3

WP: Dom Cuoci. LP: Anthony Chiardio. 2B: AR-Joe Iannacone.