Luis Santos let loose with a deep sigh and looked around Penn's Meiklejohn Stadium in several directions.

He required help, and not in the form of a cool drink on a brutally hot day.

A question had just been asked. Luckily, teammate Harry Davila was standing nearby. Seeing what was going on, Davila came over and asked one of his own: "Need some help with translation?"

Santos shook his head yes, yes, a thousand times yes.

Hispanic players are nothing new to Public League baseball. However, Santos moved to Philly just 4 years ago from Manati, Puerto Rico, and is still not confident enough with his English to answer a reporter's questions without a smidgen of help.

No problema, amigo.

Santos, a 5-6, 145-pound junior, is a catcher for Esperanza Academy, a charter school in Hunting Park with an overwhelmingly large Hispanic population.

And yesterday, in impressive fashion, he also played that spot for the Pub in the opening round of the 23rd annual Carpenter Cup Classic, a 16-team tourney for all-star squads from the tristate area.

Perhaps you know little of EA, formerly called Nueva Esperanza. Well, its diamond squad is lodged in Division C and that grouping, along with D below it, rarely sports players worthy of Carpenter Cup exposure.

Nevertheless, with the help of Davila, who plays for Alvin Swenson, Santos said he was confident when he attended the Pub's CC tryout because of his arm strength and ability to block low pitches.

In the game itself? The Pub suffered an agonizing 4-3 defeat to Mercer County (N.J.), and still owns just one win (in 1990) in tourney history. Santos was among the bright lights, though, thanks to a 2-for-2 showing at the plate and the fact that no one even tried to steal on him.

"Luis opened some serious eyes at the tryout," said Pub coach Juan Namnun, of Frankford. "His glove-to-glove time [on throws to second] was so fast. He was giving us phenomenal reps.

"We call them 'tryouts' for a reason . . . This kid deserved to be here and he showed well in this game."

With a laugh, Davila seconded Santos' tryout performance.

"We had a scrimmage and he gunned down two guys . . . Nah, I wasn't one of them."

Santos said he has been playing baseball since age 2 and that he moved to Philly (he lives near Howard and Westmoreland) with his parents and siblings because "economic conditions" in Puerto Rico had become too difficult. He chose Esperanza, he said, "because it'll give me a nice future."

Santos entered the game in the sixth inning. He singled hard to left-center and later beat out a grounder to second.

"Both pitches were down the middle," he said.

When asked why he likes playing baseball, he smiled and said, "Because I'm good."

In losing by one run for just the second time in tourney history (also 1987), the Pub also received two hits and an RBI from Northeast designated hitter Tim Freiling, three innings of one-run ball (unearned) from lefty Brian Susten, also a Northeast junior, and a two-run homer from Frankford centerfielder Edwin "Tito" Rohena, yet another 11th-grader.

Rohena said the pitch was a down-and-in fastball.

"Public League pitchers won't usually give me one there," he added. "Everything's away, away, away. But low and inside, that's one of my areas. I knew it was out off the bat."

Mercer scored the decisive run in the seventh on a bases-loaded, none-away sacrifice fly by Mike Kapuscienski.

Being able to only watch that sequence was hard for Santos. As for collecting a pair of hits . . .

"My best feeling in baseball," he said, beaming. *