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Judge beats St. Joseph's Prep to advance in CL playoffs

It's always great when a high school senior is able to keep his final season alive. Even if he winds up feeling as if he's about to die, buried under a hunk of humanity.

It's always great when a high school senior is able to keep his final season alive.

Even if he winds up feeling as if he's about to die, buried under a hunk of humanity.

Kevin Conroy's the name. All kinds of fame was what he earned yesterday as Father Judge outlasted visiting St. Joseph's Prep, 5-4, in 11 innings, in the first round of the Catholic League playoffs.

The Crusaders will visit Monsignor Bonner in today's quarterfinal round. Other matchups: La Salle at Archbishop Ryan, Kennedy-Kenrick at Archbishop Wood, and Archbishop Carroll at Ss. Neumann-Goretti.

It would have been enough if Conroy had only blasted a titanic home run in the very first inning. Or if he'd only pitched four shutout relief innings. Or if he'd only created a 4-4 tie in the three-run home seventh with a groundout.

But nooooo . . . Conroy did more.

After two infield errors (balls hit by Jim Delaney and Anthony D'Ambrosio) sandwiched a walk to Kevin Elmer, making it bases loaded with one out for the Crusaders, Conroy fired a hopping RBI single over the third-base bag.

Maybe. The Prep folks certainly did not agree. Many with passion.

"Starting off, it seemed like it was going to be fair all the way," Conroy said. "Then it started hooking. It took the first bounce, and then it went over the corner of the bag."

Would Conroy be willing to testify under oath?

"Definitely," he said.

He continued, "I only took one step, then watched it. When I saw [the umpire] make the fair sign, that was awesome. As I was going down the line, I was yelling and pumping my fist. The first-base coach [Mike Mallon] was yelling at me to make sure I touched the base. I was right there. I knew I had to do it."

Right about then, the fun really began.

"Everybody started running at me," Conroy said, laughing. "I tried to get away. Couldn't do it. They tackled me between first and second base. Then we had a manpile. And I was on the bottom!

"The last thing I remember is looking up to see Steve Boyd making a full-body dive. With his feet up in the air!"

The 6-foot, 190-pound Conroy, a 3-year force for coach Tim Ginter, is headed to La Salle on close to a full scholarship. He can play all kinds of positions, but for now he's a first baseman-pitcher.

In the first inning, out of the No. 3 hole, Conroy crushed a solo, inside-the-park homer to dead centerfield. The ball landed at second base on the softball field and rolled through an entrance in the fence along that field's first-base side.

A witness said Conroy could have circled the bases twice.

"I got all of that one," he noted. "When I got to third base, they still hadn't gotten to the ball.

"The count was 2-0, off curves, and that was the only fastball I saw all day. It was right down the middle. That's been happening a lot lately - teams not giving me fastballs."

The Prep mounted a 4-1 lead on Matt Stahl's RBI single in the third, a pair of unearned runs in the fifth (Rob McCabe safe on error, Ray Toto grounded into a doubleplay) and one more in the seventh on a double by Greg "Buddy" Brooks.

The response began with Kurt Sowa's single, Judge's first hit since the second inning. Pinch-hitter Tom Prendergast lofted a flyball that was dropped and Delaney singled to load the bases. The runs checked in thanks to Elmer's groundout to shortstop (ball was bobbled, a DP might have resulted), D'Ambrosio's single to the same locale and Conroy's groundout to third.

Prep senior righthander Pat Carbone went nine innings, allowing seven hits and striking out six. Aside from the seventh inning, he retired 21 of 23 batters.

Overall, Conroy went 2-for-6 with the homer and three RBI. His pitching line (succeeding CJ Felthaus) showed four innings, two hits, no runs, two huge jams escaped.

Conroy replaced Felthaus in the eighth with no outs and, gulp, runners on first and third. A short flyout was first, then caught a lined squeeze bunt and fired to third for a doubleplay. The ninth was also sufficiently hairy. Prep loaded 'em up with one out. Conroy coaxed Toto into grounding into a 6-4-3 twin killing.

Matt Gallo went the first four-plus for Judge. Mike McLaughlin singled and drew two walks, Sowa managed two hits and Delaney enjoyed scoring the tying and winning runs.

For the Hawks, Tyler Veterano stroked two hits while scoring two runs and stealing three bases and Brooks reached base four times (double, two walks, hit by pitch).

Conroy has mostly served as Judge's second starting pitcher while also making relief appearances. He expected only closing duty for this one, but hey, he surely wasn't complaining about having to go four frames. Not with the end of his Judge diamond days a possibility.

"That was a great game," he said. "So much fun."