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High Schools - Meletiche watches Frankford run wild

There are times in baseball, even for those wearing uniforms, when watching provides just as much fun as playing. For verification, check with Frankford High star Esteban "Shortie" Meletiche.

There are times in baseball, even for those wearing uniforms, when watching provides just as much fun as playing.

For verification, check with Frankford High star Esteban "Shortie" Meletiche.

Give him a few more minutes, though. His blood pressure is still through the roof.

The Pioneers are headed to the Public League championship game - Wednesday, 7 p.m. at Campbell's Field, in Camden, vs. Central - for the sixth consecutive year, and they know they are quite fortunate to have earned this visit.

It's one thing to pound line drives all over the yard. It's quite another to score two of your biggest runs on wild pitches. Especially at a field (at La Salle University) where the area behind home plate is not that expansive. Especially in the inning after one of your guys was thrown out at the dish trying those exact same heroics.

"Oh, man, I was so nervous. That was crazy," Meletiche said. "At first I was thinking they were making dumb choices because they didn't have to run home. Could have stayed there.

"That stuff scared me. I was about to die."

Frankford entered the home sixth facing a 4-3 deficit against Northeast. It finished this rousing semifinal with a 6-4 win. It wasn't easy. Not even close.

Jose Burgos led off the inning with a hard single to right against the hard-luck loser, junior lefthander Brian Susten. Robinson Rodriguez followed with a single to center. Frank Donato, also a lefty, was asked to bunt, and he sent a trickler along the line.

First baseman Julius Spann had the right idea: knock it foul. One problem: he did so while the ball was still in fair territory. Barely, but it was. The sac-error set up bases loaded, nobody out.

The first pitch to Dave Doggett skipped past catcher Tim Freiling. Burgos broke for home and barely beat Susten's tag. Doggett then grounded out, with Rodriguez and Donato holding at third and second, respectively. Another pitch eluded Freiling. And there came Rodriguez! The ball was in time, but Susten couldn't quite hold it. Safe!

Would Meletiche have tried to score on those plays?

"No, no, no, no," he said. "I would have stayed."

But doesn't he pride himself on displaying brass?

"Yeah, but I'm smart, too," he cracked.

Said coach Juan Namnun: "A couple of times, those guys went on their own. And they heard about it afterward. I'll take the blame for the other one" in the fifth, when Jon Bracero was erased with the cleanup hitter, Burgos, at bat.

Back to the sixth inning: Run No. 6 scored when Jose Gueits blooped a single to center.

"What it comes down to was, we were successful," Meletiche said. "All that matters."

Meletiche, a 5-11, 160-pound senior, is a 3-year stalwart and the coaches named him the MVP in the Pub's best grouping, Division A. His positions are pitcher-shortstop and he played the latter in this one as another righthander, Edwin "Tito" Rohena, did the hurling.

Batting leadoff, Meletiche (mel-uh-teech-eh) went 1-for-3 with an RBI double, one plunking, one steal and two runs scored. His outs came on a liner and fly, both to center. In his first at-bat, he was down 0-2 in the count. Not that it mattered. He hasn't fanned all season.

"Yes, I'm proud of that," he said. "But if I strike out in the championship game and we win, I won't mind at all."

Rohena's third-inning groundout and Bracero's fifth-inning single produced the other Frankford runs not previously detailed. Northeast's RBI went to Freiling (double) in the first, Josh "Pudge" Rivera (double for two) in the third and Spann (single) in the fifth.

Rohena and Susten surrendered nine hits apiece.

At shortstop, the ever-impressive Meletiche, who lives near J and Lycoming and is being eyed by Temple, La Salle and Widener, among others, did bobble one ball, but he was deep in the hole and the speedy Jose Delgado hit it, so the play was scored a hit.

Highlight-reel stuff? But of course.

In the seventh, after making a very late decision to swing, Spann sent a popup to medium left. Meletiche dashed back, did a full-lay-out dive and . . . caught it! With his back to the infield!

"It was like the angels lifted me up for that one," he said. "Didn't know I could get that high. I just tried my best. Put up my glove. And caught it."

On second thought . . .

Playing is always more fun than watching.

In the other semifinal . . .

Central 12, Washingon 11 (10 innings): Aaron Esbensen's double and Tom Capewell's RBI single gave Central a run in the visiting 10th. Capewell, the shortstop, gunned down a runner at the plate in the bottom half on a fielder's choice. Central led, 11-1, after 5 1/2 innings. Washington scored eight in the sixth and Stan Borodyansky tied it with a two-run single in the seventh. Stephen Schall got the win with four scoreless frames. *