Growing pains were to be expected as the Catholic League eased into PIAA membership.

Yesterday produced a major mess-up.

In direct violation of PIAA rules, CL baseball moderator Fran Murphy, who's also the coach at Archbishop Carroll, ordered a pair of pre-playoffs to be played completely from scratch.

According to Gene Otto, who assigns umpires for the CL and works as Murphy's righthand man on league baseball matters, PIAA regulations call for all games halted after their start to be resumed from that point on.

Murphy earlier told the Daily News that PIAA rules call for complete replays of regular-season games, and that these pre-playoffs were not officially considered playoffs.

The CL is in a transition year. It becomes a full-blown member with the start of fall sports.

Late last night, Murphy acknowledged his mistake, saying he was unaware that PIAA mandates concerning suspended games differ from those in the National Federation rulebook.

In yesterday's games, Archbishop Ryan bested North Catholic, 4-2, at La Salle High in the Red Division, as Nick Ferdinand homered and pitched three-hit ball with eight strikeouts. In the Blue, Andrew Penecale and Kyle Schwab, the No. 9 hitter, slammed homers, Joe Nicholson added two RBI, and Pete Gubicza (no-hit over the last two innings) saved the win for Brian O'Grady as Wood topped visiting Carroll, 7-3.

When the rain hit Sunday, North and Ryan were in the bottom of the third and the former owned a 2-0 lead. Wood and Carroll played one scoreless inning.

By the time the Red teams arrived at La Salle yesterday, North's coaching staff was positive an error had been made and told Otto, who was arriving at the field to evaluate his underlings.

Jeff Etsell, father of North's pitcher, Ryan Etsell, had spoken earlier in the day with PIAA executive Mark Byers about another rule (limits on innings for pitchers) and had that number stored in his cell phone.

North coach Nick Chichilitti got wind that a mistake was being made Sunday night, when he spoke with an umpire friend.

"I told him what happened in our game," he said. "He's a rules guru. He told me, 'You don't have to start over. You pick it up from there.' I called Murphy twice Sunday and two more times (yesterday). Never returned my calls."

Murphy said all coaches and umpires knew how the league planned to handle weather issues before Sunday's games began.

Etsell said, in multiple conversations with Byers, that he confirmed that the game should have been continued, not restarted. He said he then handed his phone to Otto, who confirmed that version of events.

"Mark Byers said PIAA rules call for a continuation," Otto said. "We were going to do that. [Ryan coach] Ron Gerhart said he'd refuse to put his team on the field."

Chichilitti and Etsell confirmed that sequence. Gerhart disupted it.

"I only wanted to make sure we had a clarification," he said.

Chichilitti, Otto and Etsell all said the pregame discussions dragged on and that when Murphy was finally reached on his cell phone, the Carroll-Wood game had begun.

All three said Murphy ordered Ryan-North to begin anew since Wood-Carroll had done so.

The PIAA does not allow protests.

"The bottom line is, this was screwed up," Chichilitti said. "But I guess they have to stand by it."

Yesterday's winners go right into quarterfinals today. Ryan visits Conwell-Egan and Wood plays St. Joseph's Prep at Richie Ashburn Field, in South Philly. The other quarters feature La Salle at Ss. Neumann-Goretti and Kennedy-Kenrick at Monsignor Bonner. *