It's not often a pitcher in decent control of a ballgame can still double his strikeout total within the seventh inning.

And with regard to Tom Mahoney yesterday, we're not talking from three to six or even two to four . . .

Mahoney, a 5-8, 170-pound senior righthander, yesterday recorded just two strikeouts as visiting Kennedy-Kenrick dumped Roman Catholic, 8-3, in a meaningful Catholic South regular-season finale.

He didn't really care.

"I'm not really a strikeout pitcher," Mahoney said. "I don't 'try' for them. I'm not going to overpower people. I throw to spots and look for grounders and fly balls in places where my teammates can get to them."

He smiled. "I have trust in them."

He did not add "especially lately," but those extra two words would have been entirely fitting, particularly in an overall sense.

Talk about a late-season run . . .

Thanks to a three-game sweep this week of Roman, and seven wins in its last nine games, K-K stormed into a fourth-place tie at 12-9 with Roman and Archbishop Carroll, which yesterday bested Monsignor Bonner, 6-3. There will be a preplayoff doubleheader tomorrow at La Salle High, with Roman-Carroll at noon and that winner vs. K-K to follow.

The regular playoffs in both divisions begin Tuesday.

"We started off slow," Mahoney said. "It wasn't what we wanted to do, but it happened. At least now is a good time of the year to start playing baseball. It's a shame we weren't doing this earlier.

"The way things were going, it was tough. We were together, and we were playing hard. Things weren't breaking the right way, though. We had trouble getting the clutch hits . . . You just come out and keep playing. Never give up."

Though the feisty Mahoney considers himself a shortstop first and a pitcher second, it was hard to tell this week.

His 4-day innings total was 11 2/3, counting his Monday relief appearance that netted a 10-6 win.

"This wasn't tough," he said. "It's about wanting to do your job and coming through for your team.

"I had no pain at all warming up. I was actually surprised how good I felt. I had the adrenaline going, and that always helps you get through."

Mahoney, a Norristown resident, said he headed home Monday night with the mind-set that yesterday's game would be important and that first-year coach Tony Biello would ask him to do the pitching.

Luckily for all, Tom's refrigerator cooperated.

"I did lots of icing," he said. "Three, four times every day. I had to make sure I was good. To be there for my team.

"Also, you want to make sure you're going to be as healthy as possible. You don't want to put your arm at risk."

Mahoney, in the leadoff slot, went 3-for-5 with one RBI and one run scored against Roman lefty Mark Donato, a freshman. Nick Ciccone doubled twice while going 3-for-3 with two RBI, and his quality sacrifice helped out in a two-run fifth that created a 7-2 lead. Carlo Petrillo cracked a solo homer. Andrew Gulotta and Jeff Couchara added RBI singles.

For Roman, Will O'Mara went 2-for-2 with a sacrifice fly, double and two-run homer for all three RBI.

Mahoney wound up yielding six hits and one walk. All four of the Cahillies' stranded runners were left in scoring position.

Mahoney, who figures he'll major in business, is bound for Widener. If asked, he'll strut to mounds and put forth a good-faith effort, but he'd rather station himself in that ever-important position between second and third.

"I do like pitching," he said. "My favorite is shortstop, though. There's always that chance the ball's coming at you and you'll be able to make a big play."

Sometimes, you even get to turn two. *