JOHN GENTILE is bound for Lafayette to major in English and history, and he has designs on becoming a lawyer.

Ask him what branch and he will shoot back with a smile, "Don't know. That's why I'm going to college. To find out. To see what I like."

Odds are, Gentile will be successful no matter the path he chooses to follow, especially if he shows the same levels of skill and patience that he brought to pitching.

As late as his junior year at Malvern Prep, Gentile was "only" a nonleague starter. But in the season just passed, the 6-2, 175-pound righthander helped the Friars capture the Inter-Ac League championship while also earning the coaches' MVP honor (he doubled as a second baseman).

Then came yesterday, when the occasion was a first-round game at Penn's Meiklejohn Stadium in the 23rd annual Carpenter Cup Classic.

The overall experience in this tourney, which involves all-star teams from the tri-state area, was quite the downer. Though the Inter-Ac is known for quality baseball, the result for Inter-Ac/Independents was a 9-3 loss to Berks County. An often messy loss, at that.

Ah, but Gentile was able to walk away with a feeling of satisfaction. His three-inning stint was scoreless and he sniffed perfection, too, retiring the first eight guys he faced in order.

Side issue: He didn't take the mound until the seventh inning and his squad was buried deep in an 8-0 hole.

"Coach Hickey [Mike, also Malvern's boss] told me I'd be used in relief today, so I just watched the game and awaited my chance," Gentile said. "Once you get out there, it's just throw strikes and try to keep your team in the game. Baseball is crazy. Never know what can happen.

"I was down in the bullpen with my Malvern teammate, Rick Kazigian. That was kind of cool, actually."

That last sentence had double meaning. The rightfield bullpen was in the shade and the protection was much appreciated on a day when the temperature soared within a whisker of 100 degrees.

There was some shade in the stands along the third-base side when the game began, a shade after 9 a.m., but by midmorning everyone was roastin'.

"It wasn't too bad to pitch in. You're only going three innings," Gentile said. "It was easy to get warm, that's for sure."

Gentile fanned the first five batters he faced and raised his strikeout total to six with the second out of the ninth. Berks then loaded the bases on a shot to right, a walk and an infield single, but Gentile regrouped by recording his seventh go-sit-down, thanks to a curve.

"Pitching has always been what I'm best at," he said. "I love that one-on-one battle within the game."

Said Hickey: "John played JV ball for us as a freshman. He was always decent, but his velocity jumped up this year. You can't predict that. He was hitting 87 as last season ended. This year he was up to 88-89. When his curve is on, he's even tougher, because he throws it hard and doesn't telegraph it.

"He's going to do well at Lafayette. He competes. He's mentally tough and you can't coach that."

I-A/Indy settled for seven hits. The best was a home run by Malvern's Chris "Goose" Gosik off the scoreboard in leftfield, right above the 365-foot sign. Penn Charter's Rob Amaro, nephew of Ruben, the Phillies' assistant general manager, laced a triple off the base of the fence in left-center and Joe Conaway hit a deep fly that was caught right in front of the scoreboard. Chestnut Hill Academy's Brandon Sady had a pair of singles.

"I thought our lineup would do a little bit more," Gentile said. "I expected us to string together some hits."

In lieu of that, I-A/Indy had to settle for John Gentile's late-game run of outs. *