Well, that didn't last too long.

Mike Cavallaro's status as Central High's only returning baseball starter, we're talking about.

In the very first game April 8, while pitching, the sophomore lefty hustled over to cover first on a 3-6-1 doubleplay. Zip! Thwap! Zing! Whatever the correct sound to describe what happened, Cavallaro suffered a pulled right hamstring.

"I stretched out a little too far, and slid on the dirt," Cavallaro said. "I was pretty upset. I was feeling a lot of emotions. I was so ready for this season . . .

"When I got home that night, I iced it up and then did all my homework. Anything to keep from thinking about how disappointing it was."

This is late May, of course, and the fact that Central's baseball team is still in the news can mean only one thing: All's well.

Not only did The New Crew storm to a 14-1 record in Division A (one win via forfeit), it has since claimed three more playoff wins and, guess what, it now has a chance to repeat as the Public League champion.

The Lancers' latest win - 6-3 over Girard Academic Music Program - came yesterday at La Salle University in the second game of a semifinal doubleheader. The 5-7, 145-pound Cavallaro, playing centerfield and batting sixth, enjoyed making his mark with a 2-for-2, two-RBI performance that included a walk, two stolen bases and one run scored.

"At first, the doctor was saying I wouldn't be able to come back until a week from now," Cavallaro said. "But I recovered pretty quickly and the therapist said to go ahead. I do a lot of running before the games to make sure I'm warmed up.

"I was able to DH [2 weeks ago] and now I'm back in the field. It's fun to be around all these guys as a player again. I couldn't wait for that to happen. I had so much faith in these guys. I knew they'd step up. Never doubted that."

Central's opponent in Tuesday's final (3:30, also at La Salle) will be Frankford, a 7-0 winner over George Washington. Kevin Pfeifer will be among the missing, however.

The gritty Pfeifer, also a football star, pitched three-hit, two-run ball over the first three innings and then switched places with third baseman Pete Rowe. Then, in the home fifth, Pfeifer was ejected by first-base ump Jim Carpino after being nipped at first on a very close play. (Third baseman Joe Garafalo bobbled briefly, then fired to Joe Coppola.)

That Pfeifer slammed down his helmet was visible to all. Coach Rich Weiss said Carpino reported to him that Pfeifer also growled, "Are you kidding me!!??"

By PIAA rule, he cannot play Tuesday.

"To do that to a senior, with the championship game coming up, that's not right," Weiss said. "He didn't curse. You don't throw him out for that."

Said Cavallaro: "Kevin's a great kid and player. That's a really big hurt for us. We'll have to find a way to come through."

Central showed progressive run-scoring ability - early, anyway - with one, then two, then three in the first three innings. Only three of the runs resulted from RBI hits; Pfeifer had the other.

Four of Central's markers were earned as GAMP's Dom Raia, a junior righthander, finished with six strikeouts in a nine-hitter. He walked five.

Cavallaro's first hit was a ground-ball single to center. His next resulted from a sinking liner to left.

"I was looking to get ahead that first time because Dom has good offspeed stuff," he said. "At 3-1, I knew a fastball was coming, and I was looking to drive it up the middle. I got fortunate. The second time, I knew he'd come at me with a curve. I just went with it."

Also for Central, shortstop Dan Quinn singled twice, walked once, scored two runs and made an impressive play as the Pioneers stirred in the seventh. With one out and runners on first and second, Joe Coppola hit a chopper to Quinn. He charged hard and capitalized on that momentum to chase Anthony DiVincenzo and tag him out maybe 15 feet from third. Tyler Criniti's grounder ended it.

In his four-inning stint, Rowe allowed two hits and fanned four.

GAMP's two runs in the second scored on a wild pitch and Garafalo's single to center. In the fifth, Raia launched a triple to right-center and raced home on a WP.

Cavallaro lives near 18th and Johnston, not far from GAMP.

"I know every single one of them," he said. "They're battlers. I knew they'd fight us to the end. I used to play with Dom Raia on a Legion team. There was some trash-talking, sure. Where we're from, that's how we do it. Afterward, it's always, 'great job . . . great job' and we remain friends." *