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Catholic League tops Mercer County, N.J., in Carpenter Cup quarterfinal

SAMSON WANTED his hair to flow. As for Mark Donato . . . He prefers it bunched in a row.

SAMSON WANTED his hair to flow.

As for Mark Donato . . . He prefers it bunched in a row.

Every kid has quirks. Donato prefers to wear his hair in a mohawk and now that school is over, he doesn't have to worry about receiving detention from those strict folks at Ss. Neumann-Goretti High.

"I actually wanted this," he said. "It wasn't like I lost a bet, or anything.

"It looks cool. I went to get one the day after school ended, but the barber shop was closed. So I went back the next day. A regular haircut is $10 and this is $15. The extra $5 is for bunching up the hair real nice. It's worth it.

"I'm giving the credit for them to the mohawk."

By them, Donato, a 6-1, 205-pound junior first baseman, was referring to the two home runs he launched yesterday morning at Penn's Meiklejohn Stadium in the quarterfinal round of the 24th annual Carpenter Cup Classic, thus helping to lift the Catholic League over Mercer County, 11-9, and earn his squad a Tuesday trip to Citizens Bank Park for a semifinal.


Can you hear the sound of an aluminum bat sending a baseball into orbit? It still might be echoing 'round the Delaware Valley.

The first homer - a two-run shot in the first inning - for the lefty-swinging Donato was a monster. The ball cleared the regular fence at about the 335-foot mark. It also soared over a 40-foot (minimum) restraining fence meant to protect cars using the University Avenue exit off the eastbound Schuylkill Expressway. So much for that: The ball also cleared that off ramp.

After the game, the Daily News, with help from a few Lehigh Valley players getting ready to warm up for the next game (and after agreeing to be conservative), figured the distance from the stadium fence to the far-side guardrail was 75 feet. No one seemed to know how far beyond that second guardrail the ball landed. But a total of 425 seems reasonable.

"I can't remember the last time I hit one that far," Donato said. "I knew it was going over the big net. From there, who knew? I lost sight of it."

In the sixth, completing a 2-for-3, three-RBI, one-walk performance, Donato hit a solo shot down the rightfield line. It traveled about 335 feet.

The response was somewhat underwhelming. No surprise, considering the juice created by the first one.

"I got jammed," Donato said. "I still put a good swing on it, though. And since it's kind of short there [325 down the line], I thought it had a chance.

"I was mad at myself after going 1-for-3 [in the CL's first game]. I hit off the tee for about a half-hour [Thursday] at the schoolyard around the corner from my house [in South Philly]. With scouts here, I wanted to show off my power."

Though Donato became just the fifth Carp Cup player - but the second CLer, joining North Catholic's Stan Orzechowski in 2004 - to homer twice in one game, he was hardly the sole provider of entertainment.

Even the respective coaching staffs obliged, getting into it verbally over some early-game matters. Tournament honchos Larry Conti and Stan Parker ordered them to knock it off, or else.

The CL was outhit, 16-11, and faltered after building leads of 7-0 and 8-1. Things got extra hairy and the game's final out didn't come until lefty Kevin Cahill (Conwell-Egan) induced a grounder to backup shortstop Bob Hopkins (North Catholic) with the tying runs in scoring position.

In the seventh inning, while in the bullpen, Cahill had enjoyed a great view of a spectacular, toward-the-line diving catch by C-E teammate Ben Keller, the rightfielder. The first three batters had reached base and MC would score three runs. Without Keller's heroics, the rally could have been fatal.

"Ben's the best athlete I've ever seen, so I was not surprised," Cahill said.

Said Keller: "I got a good bead on it. I figured I needed to lay out or get around it. Since I didn't get around it . . . Had to make up for it and lay out. I got a good first step, and then full extension, so it all worked out.

"To make a play like that, especially with runners on, gives you a great feeling. You know you really helped your team."

Starter Kevin Gillen (St. Joseph's Prep, two innings) was the only CL pitcher not to surrender a run. However, Ryan Etsell (North) did fan six in a three-inning, one-run outing.

Prior to the Carpenter Cup, Cahill had not pitched since June 18. That day, in a CL first-round playoff, he raised his record to 6-0 in a 12-2 win over Lansdale Catholic. He worked one inning 4 days ago in the Carpenter Cup's first round and yesterday's stint covered 1 1/3 innings.

Easy, it wasn't. Cahill walked the first two batters in the ninth, then recorded a fielder's choice and foulout before allowing a run-scoring single to Eric Patterson (Nottingham), who then stole second.

"I always started for Egan," Cahill said. "It's different relieving. You don't have to hold back and save things for later innings. I knew I only had to get four outs . . . Got a little rough, though. I guess I'm a little rusty."

Offensively, Donato, N-G's Al Baur and Brian O'Grady (Archbishop Wood) collected two hits apiece while Joey Armata (N-G) lined a two-run double.

One of those guys could be joining Donato on the mohawk trail.

"O'Grady said he's getting one," Donato said.

Just then, O'Grady walked over.

"Mohawk, right?" Donato asked him.

O'Grady shot back, "You'll see it Tuesday." *