THERE'S NOTHING better than having an older brother who shares a passion for your favorite sport.
Except right after the game.
Do a dozen things right and one thing wrong and, yup, even the thickest earplugs aren't gonna spare you.
"The first thing he'll do," Marty Venafro said yesterday, "is mention the error."
Venafro is a 5-7, 150-pound sophomore shortstop, and he starred in major fashion as Ss. Neumann-Goretti conquered visiting Archbishop Carroll, 10-4, in a Catholic League quarterfinal. Alas, he also kicked a fifth-inning grounder - it was his only chance of the game - and an unearned run resulted.
Venafro's brother, Anthony, was a third-team Daily News infielder for Girard Academic Music Program in 2007, so he knows his diamond stuff. Also has a degree in brotherly cube-busting.
"He comes out to watch all the games," Marty said. "Always tells me good and bad things. Helps me out.
"Usually, he'll pick out the bad thing I do and focus on that. He doesn't give me a lot of compliments. I don't mind. It's good like that. That always gives me the challenge to get better."
In the plus-minus department, Venafro finished with a plus-four. Though his error did lead to one run against star senior lefthander Mark Donato, who pitched a six-hitter with 14 strikeouts, he more than made up for it by going 3-for-3 with five RBI.
There was the run-scoring single up the middle in the first. And the hard single in that same direction in the fourth.
In between? Bang! Venafro powered a three-run triple - you got it - to center, albeit a shade to the right side.
Here's hoping Anthony eventually praised Marty for his batsmanship.
The six-run third began with Donato's double. Albert Baur walked and Steve Stortini replaced starter Andrew Luskin. Mike Riverso took a pitch in the back, thus loading the bases, and Venafro found himself in jump-all-over-it mode.
"I was seeing the ball good," Venafro said. "I'm usually aggressive on the first pitch, anyway. Like Louie [coach Lou Spadaccini] always says, 'If you like the first pitch, hit it and drive it.' I thought it was getting in the gap off the bat."
Spadaccini was not on hand for this one, though he did pop up immediately afterward. He'd been ejected from the Saints' previous game, the regular-season finale, and by PIAA rule was not allowed to run his squad. Assistants Phil Cardella and Matt Cella did so.
Early and often, sometimes with anger, Carroll coach Fran Murphy, who's also the CL baseball moderator, complained to umps Joe Cassidy (plate) and Gene Otto (base) that the 75-odd N-G fans beyond third base and down the line, some in folding chairs or merely sitting on the grass, posed a safety hazard. All were "in play" and some stood within a few feet of the foul line.
Otto is the CL's commissioner, meaning he assigns the umps for each game. Several times he made the PA announcer demand that the spectators move back. You can guess how that went: They did briefly, then mostly inched their way back to where they'd been.
Carroll assistant Fr. Edward Casey is also that school's president. As the game progressed, talk swirled that he intended to file an official complaint with the Archdiocese about how N-G and the umps handled the situation. Asked about that directly, Casey declined comment.
Otto said he could worry about the spectators only to a certain degree, and that someone in power from N-G should have been forceful.
"That's been an issue here for 30 years," he said. "I've always said they should run a rope from right there [restraining fence fronting N-G's bench] all the way down [to the leftfield fence] and make the area behind it out of play."
Meanwhile, behind the rightfield fence was where two of Donato's hits soared. He smacked solo homers in the first and fourth while going 3-for-4 with two RBI.
Carroll scored its runs on Mike Santoleri's two-run double in the first and Seamus Finnegan's two-run triple in the fifth; Finnegan finished 3-for-4.
Marty Venafro said his brother is very giving of his time.
"He always helps me with my fielding - he especially did that last year [when Marty started as a freshman] - and drives me to the batting cages. I only have my permit so far."
Similarly, Marty gives Anthony permission to emphasize the negative. "That's how you get better," he said. "If I'm better, that makes my team better and that's all that really matters."
In other CL quarterfinals:
* Wood 1, Kennedy-Kenrick 0: Matt McAllister pitched a three-hitter with eight strikeouts, and the run scored as Jeff Courter drew a bases-loaded walk in the third. K-K advanced just one guy as far as third base.
* Ryan 8, La Salle 7: Steve Markle's right-side infield dribbler scored Eric Frain, who'd doubled, to win it with one out in the home seventh. Frain went 4-for-4 with three RBI. AJ Rodriguez' two-run single and Mike Piscopo's single drove in the final three runs in La Salle's four-run seventh. Kevin Mack worked one-third of an inning to get the win.
* Bonner 9, Judge 8: Bonner scored the first six runs as Rick Reigner (solo homer, two-run single) provided much of the impetus. Kurt Sowa's two-run single and Anthony D'Ambrosio's three-run triple highlighted Judge's seven-run fourth. In the bottom half, the Friars went ahead for good, at 8-7, as Alex Liberatore lofted a sacrifice fly and Sam Christie, the only runner on base, daringly stole home.