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Ryan beats Wood to advance to Catholic League final

IT MIGHT HAVE been the first time this sentence ever came cascading out of Colin Budny's mouth.

IT MIGHT HAVE been the first time this sentence ever came cascading out of Colin Budny's mouth.

"I have no words."

No words? He usually rat-a-tats them at a pace of three or four per second and the volume is often high. All of a sudden the cat had both paws wrapped around his tongue?

"Nah, I can think of plenty of words," he chirped. "That was insane."

Archbishop Ryan High is headed to the Catholic League baseball final - Tuesday, 3:30, at Widener University against Monsignor Bonner - and Budny, a 5-10, 185-pound senior catcher, is a prominent reason.

In part for what he did yesterday as the Raiders held on to edge Archbishop Wood, 9-8, in a semi, played under gray skies at La Salle High's picturesque Ward Field, that stretched the definitions of nutty/entertaining. But mostly for what he has done all season as a vocal leader, one who has refused to let his ballclub display anything but tremendous chemistry.

"This is the most fun I've ever had in my entire life. You can write that down," Budny said. "This team has a crazy energy. Nothing like it.

"Last year was the exact opposite. We didn't get along. But this year the seniors took it upon themselves to make this a special season."

Budny's offensive contribution included a pair of hits in an eight-run visiting third. He started the explosion by ripping a one-out single to left and capped it with another hit that was struck with just as much authority - a one-run double over the head of centerfielder Brian O'Grady.

With a 9-2 lead, that last hit undoubtedly felt like icing. Well, it wound up being crucial. To boot, it partnered three innings later with an outstanding defensive play that, in retrospect, made the difference.

The second out in Wood's five-run outburst was notched not far from the plate, as Budny tagged an overzealous courtesy runner, Kevin Sullivan, after participating in a rundown with sophomore third baseman Mike Anusky. Yes, the same Mike Anusky who'd been chastised by Budny a couple innings earlier.

"We were in the dugout and Mike said, 'Where's the party tonight?' " Budny said.

Uh, oh.

"Was I mad? Absolutely," Budny said, smiling. "I'm as superstitious as they come. I told him, 'If we lose this game, it's on your head.' "

He added in general comments to his teammates, "First, there's no reason this shouldn't be our game. Second, we can't step off their throats because they'll get right back up. They're too good a team. Honestly, for a while there, it was too easy. I knew it wouldn't last."

The successful rundown followed Brett McCrossen's two-run double to center. It became gigantic immediately thereafter when Chris Zikmund mashed an impressive homer to left-center for only two runs, not three, thus cutting Ryan's lead to 9-7.

"When I saw [Sullivan] braking, my feet were already moving, so I took it upon myself to make the play," Budny said, simply.

Ryan opened against Jeff Courter with one run on Mark Golic's looping single to right and Eric Frain's ringing triple to right. Wood shrugged off that disappointment as quickly as possible: O'Grady reached on an infield single and Mike Spahits homered to dead left.

Twelve batters strolled to the plate in Ryan's fourth. Pat Kwiatkowski got the first run home with a looper to left, Golic crunched a three-run triple to center, Sean Kovacs hit a grounder that became a run-scoring error, winning pitcher Kevin Mack beat out a well-placed bunt, Frain fouled out to first, John "Milk" Rizzo doubled into the rightfield corner and Budny followed with his second hit of the frame.

"That first at-bat, I just wanted to get things started and I was glad to be able to do that," Budny said. "As soon as that happened, I knew it would be a big inning. I was looking for a first-pitch fastball on that second at-bat. Off the bat, I didn't think it was going that far. But, that'll do."

When Budny was asked if he'd ever played in such a game, he shot back, "Like that? Try La Salle."

In a Tuesday quarterfinal, the Raiders scored once in the home seventh to edge La Salle, 8-7, after the Explorers scored four in the top half.

In this one, Kyle McCrossen's one-out double and Courter's two-out double enabled Wood to storm within 9-8. After Mack drilled Brady McNab with a 3-2 pitch, coach Ron Gerhart scurried to the mound and summoned Sean Kovacs from second base.

The game ended on Larry Brittingham's shot to very deep centerfield. Slightly short of 365 feet. The katch was made by Kwiatkowski, who klutched the ball at the top of a semi-adventurous reach.

"Just before I caught it," he said, "my foot hit the warning track and I slipped a little. I had it the whole way, though."

Said Budny, without prompting: "Did my heart drop? Yeah. I thought he was going to catch it. I know Patty K. If he thought he needed to, he really would have been sprinting."

Budny, who lives in Chalfont, is bound for West Chester and expects to try out for baseball as a preferred walk-on. His roommate will be Wood's Matt McAllister, who split this game between first and third base and went 3-for-4 with a run scored.

Listening to Colin talk about this game . . . well, let's just say Matt could be in for a loooong 4 years.