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High Schools - Frankford tops Avon Grove in Class AAAA first-round playoff

Off his pitching performance alone, Edwin "Tito" Rohena would have been able to walk away from La Salle University's baseball field feeling incredibly proud.

Off his pitching performance alone, Edwin "Tito" Rohena would have been able to walk away from La Salle University's baseball field feeling incredibly proud.

But why merely walk away when, for your last act, you can trot excitedly around the bases, then jump on home plate, then get pummeled by your giddy teammates?

On the happiness scale, Rohena yesterday enjoyed quite the two-for-one deal.

The final score in a PIAA Class AAAA first-round playoff was Frankford 3, Avon Grove 1. The length was eight innings, and since Frankford batted last, you know what that means . . .

Yard work! Of the walkoff variety!

After Jon Bracero absorbed a one-out, full-count plunking, Rohena, a 6-1, 190-pound junior who bats and throws righthanded, jumped on a first pitch from lefty reliever Andrew Harrison and sent it, trailing sparks, over the fence in dead rightfield.

As Rohena answered post-game questions, the only thing missing was a teammate sneaking up from behind to stick a shaving-cream pie in his face.

"This whole game, they were mostly pitching around me. Throwing offspeed stuff on first pitches," said Rohena, the No. 3 hitter. "That kid was throwing a lot of curves, so I went up there looking for one. I waited back and drove it to the opposite field.

"Right off the bat, I knew it was gone. Right off the bat!"

Rohena at first said the feeling he experienced was one of "great relief." He then came out of his shell.

"I'd say that's the biggest homer I've hit," he gushed. "My heart was beating very, very fast. I've never had a feeling like that one. It wasn't normal."

First-year coach Juan Namnun was also quite pumped. In fact, he ran from the third-base coach's box to the plate area and was among those eagerly awaiting Rohena's arrival.

"Tito's so strong," Namnun said. "If he just makes contact, the ball jumps off his bat. I've been working with him a lot lately. 'If you see an outside pitch, just drive it that way.'

"He's still young. He still has the mentality, 'I want to drive it to left or left-center.' So to see him win the game like that was big."

Rohena played centerfield last Wednesday as the Pioneers bested Central for Public League honors. He knew he'd be pitching this one, assuming Frankford reached it, from the semifinals forward.

Effectively changing speeds, Rohena allowed three hits and seven walks while striking out seven. He helped himself by picking off two runners at first base and his teammates lent assistance by making sure their two errors were harmless.

For AG, District 1's third-place squad and located 15 miles due south of Coatesville, in Chester County, the run came on Brandon Snyder's sixth-inning homer.

"If not for how my team played defense, I would have given up more hits," Rohena said. "I can't say enough about them."

Frankford scored in the second as Frank Donato doubled over the head of rightfielder Tom Burns, advanced to third on a fielder's choice error, and came home on a wild pickoff throw by the catcher.

Rohena's homer was Frankford's third hit. Esteban "Shortie" Meletiche joined Donato in doubling.

Counting one-sided losses yesterday in the other three classifications, the Pub is now 3-15 in 4 years of state playoffs and has been outscored, 175-24, in the setbacks. Central - both in 2006, by one run apiece - owns the other wins.

Namnun's theme for the tourney is "Why Not Us? Why Not Now?"

"It's rough to hear all the talk about how bad the Pub does," he said. "Even we had struggled in states [0-3 record, 35-3 total score]. It was encouraging to see Tito hold them down early. We went from there."

Said Rohena: "As soon as that team walked in, they gave us a funny look. I don't think they expected much from us. We're just a little team from the city.

"There's a lesson here. We're a force to be reckoned with. That's our mentality. We're here to make a statement."

Yesterday, Rohena made his with arm and bat. *