Ian Lewis talked about his baseball career at Central High and how one of his outfielding skills was especially appreciated by coaches and teammates.

"They liked the way I went and got the ball," he said.

Just then, it hit him. As in, the irony of that statement.

He added quickly, "Except that time."

As it has in 23 of the 24 years the Carpenter Cup Classic - a 16-team, Phillies-supported tournament for tristate, all-star squads - has existed, the Public League yesterday dropped its first-round game.

This setback - 15-0 to Jersey Shore at Penn's Meiklejohn Stadium - was particularly ugly, and, who knows, it could have been worse had a lightning sighting, followed almost immediately by a violent thunderstorm complete with Dippin' Dots-sized hail, not brought about a mutual-agreement termination after seven innings.

Lewis, a 5-9, 155-pound senior, was able to experience the joy of reaching base (single, walk) in his two plate appearances.

While in leftfield . . . Did you have to ask?

Fifth inning. Lefty Brian Susten (Northeast) on the mound. One away, man on second, one run already in.

Todd Juliano sends a decent drive to leftfield. Lewis looks and looks and barely moves. Finally, the ball lands behind him to his right, maybe within 20 feet of the fence, and Juliano circles the bases for a two-run homer.

"I saw that it was a curve and that the pitch was kind of low," Lewis said. "After that? Nothing. I kept looking up and all I saw was sky. I thought it was a foul ball. Well, I was hoping it was a foul ball.

"I kept looking around. No idea. I heard [teammates] yelling, but they were just distant voices. It was such a long wait. When I heard a ping behind me, it was, 'Oh, crap!' "

The cheapie homer made it 9-0, so it wasn't as if Lewis' misadventure sent the Pub on its way to disaster. Jersey Shore had scored six in the third. The fifth would result in a five-spot and two apiece would be added in the sixth and seventh.

In all, the victors rapped 19 hits against five pitchers and seven went for extra bases.

The good, ol' Pub managed just three safeties. In addition to Lewis' hit, there was a double by Tim Freiling (Northeast) and a single by Zach Magdovitz (Central).

"Terrible day. I'm so mad," Lewis said. "We came in here with pretty high hopes after losing by only one run [to Mercer County] last year. Instead, we get destroyed."

Lewis began the fifth by directing a single into rightfield. After Dom Raia (Girard Academic Music Program) was retired on a nice running catch in right, Lewis broke for second. No dice. The attempted steal was unsuccessful.

"I went on my own," he acknowledged. "I figured, 'We're down, 6-0. We at least have to get on the board. I'll try to get into scoring position.' They made a good play."

Wouldn't you know it. Magdovitz did follow with his single.

A great chance in the seventh did not pan out. Graham Johnston (Central) got plunked, then Ron Malandro (GAMP) and Lewis milked walks. Jonathan Colon (Thomas Edison) hit into a third-to-home fielder's choice and Carlos Payano (Overbrook) grounded into a 6-4-3 doubleplay.

The game was still scoreless when Freiling launched his double into the leftfield corner to start the second. Julius Spann (Northeast) moved him up with a groundout, but Matt Marley whiffed Raia and Magdovitz.

Lewis, who lives in West Germantown, is bound for Rutgers-Camden. The wheels were set in motion thanks to a family friend who knows the coach. His major is undecided.

These last two seasons, Lewis served Central as the centerfielder and leadoff hitter. He was a 4-year varsity performer, however, and made an impact even as a freshman for his frisky contributions as a pinch-runner.

"Everybody was saying then that Jared Farbman had been the only freshman to make Central's varsity," Lewis said, refering to the pitcher-shortstop now at Philadelphia University. "So it felt good to make it, too. I knew [coach Bob Barthelmeh] only kept me because of my speed, but I also knew I'd contribute someday as a full-time player.

"He just kept telling me to hustle and give it my all. Things worked out. It was great to win the Pub championship this year. We wanted to go somewhere in states, too. Though we lost [6-2 to Council Rock North] in the first round, we battled."

Then came yesterday and The Ball Not Spotted 'Til It Was Way Too Late.

Someday, will Ian Lewis be able to laugh about it?

"Hopefully," he said. *