IN A WEEK of Catholic League baseball playoffs filled with nutty-nature developments, this one served as the capper: a pitcher rooting

against

more run support.

Not with passion, mind you. But John Condo has been a closer all season for Monsignor Bonner High and in high school ball, that means the seventh inning. It also means a racing heart and sweaty palms and the chance to meet a challenge.

Yesterday, for an added reason, it could have meant a celebratory leap off the mound and being swarmed by giddy teammates.

Didn't happen. As we hinted, this was a goofy week.

The final score in a mostly unspiring semifinal at Widener University was Bonner 11, Archbishop Ryan 1. The length was only six innings, thanks to the Friars' eight-run home sixth, and that meant Condo and starter Ryan Haley went into the books with "only" a shortened, combined no-hitter.

"I wanted to go back out there," Condo said. "I was looking forward to trying to finish it off. But the more important thing is, we're going to the championship game (Tuesday, 4 p.m., vs. St. Joseph's Prep; also at Widener) for the first time in 19 years."

The wackiness began Sunday, when pre-playoffs in each division were washed out by rain. Monday, they should have been continued, but instead were restarted in a violation (not corrected) of PIAA rules.

Rain was a weeklong problem. There were postponements, a continuation and a late switch in sites. There was also another combined no-no as Kyle Mullen, Kevin Gillen and Pat Carbone, of St. Joseph's Prep, threw two innings apiece in a 10-0, six-inning quarterfinal win over Archbishop Wood.

This one ended on a walkoff strikeout/wild pitch combo, with pinchhitter Jim Calabrese doing the, um, honors. Bonner had three hits in the frame and just one left the infield. Its three runs earlier in the game had scored on a sac fly, groundout and error.

Ryan's run also scored on a miscue. A diamond classic, this was not.

Haley, a 6-4, 185-pound righthander (and the No. 1-ranked student in the junior class), departed after 2 2/3 innings. Back-to-back, third-inning errors had led to a run.

"I wasn't thinking about the hits," he said. "I was disappointed with myself, with not lasting as long as I wanted. Thought I should have helped the team more."

Condo evaded a first-and-second situation as shortstop Rob Benedict made a nice play to get a forceout at third.

His final three frames were mostly uneventful. In the sixth, though, Ryan's Nick Ferdinand did get to third on a walk, steal and groundout. After making an unsuccessful bid to bunt for a hit, Kevin Bryan popped out to right.

Get this: Condo thrived in part by mistake!

"I was throwing about 95 percent changeups," he said. "[Assistant Rob Benedict] thought he was calling for sliders, but when I'm pitching that sign means changeups. After maybe the fifth inning, [head coach Joe DeBarberie] said, 'Your slider's really working well.' I told him, 'Um, I haven't thrown a slider yet.'

"They weren't making good contact on all the changeups. So I guess it was a good mistake."

Haley realized a no-hitter was in progress when a teammate made note of the game's errors.

"I looked up at the scoreboard and saw the zero for their hits," he said.

He added: "The most important thing is getting to the championship game. But this is pretty cool. You don't see it every day. A combined no-hitter. I'll remember it for the rest of my life."

The 6-foot, 200-pound Condo, who hopes to pitch for West Chester as a walk-on, came upon the no-hit realization in the fifth.

"I wanted to see how many hits we had," he said. "Then I noticed, 'Hey, they have none.' That made me more focused.

"Being a closer, I felt kind of rushed going in there [so early]. But I was throwing good pitches and it all worked out."

Bob Steffney pitched the first two innings for Ryan. Coach Ron Gerhart then summoned Ferdinand from shortstop. He'd pitched 10 total innings in the 2-day pre-playoff against North Catholic and would have been limited to four, by PIAA rule, in this one. He departed after facing seven batters in the sixth.

"My arm's destroyed," Ferdinand said, forcing a smile.

Drew Stevens finished up. He fanned Calabrese for what would have been the third out, but the ball hit the dirt and catcher Jerry Smith didn't realize it was nearby. Pinch-hitter Conor Kerins scored easily to end it.

Let the muffled celebration begin. *