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Rick O'Brien: Lacrosse star's return to baseball pays off for La Salle

After focusing on lacrosse the last three years, Pete Auteri approached La Salle skipper Joe Parisi last December about a possible switch to baseball.

After focusing on lacrosse the last three years, Pete Auteri approached La Salle skipper Joe Parisi last December about a possible switch to baseball.

"I told him, 'What you're trying to do is difficult,' " Parisi said. "But I said, 'We're going to give you a shot.' He went out and earned it."

Wednesday afternoon, with Auteri producing a two-run single to right field in the sixth inning, the host Explorers turned back Father Judge, 6-4, in a Catholic League first-round playoff in Wyndmoor. It is a double-elimination tourney.

"I was looking for a fastball," said the senior, a righty hitter and lefty thrower. "It was middle-out. My goal was to go opposite field with it."

Auteri, an attackman and midfielder in lacrosse, is a rightfielder and middle-relief pitcher. From the No. 5 hole, he is batting about .335 with three home runs, including a pair of grand slams.

The reason for his return to the diamond? "I grew up playing baseball," he said. "I wanted to come back. I'm glad I did."

Auteri was born in Scottsdale, Ariz. Before moving to Doylestown the summer before seventh grade, he lived for two years in Virginia.

"It was tough at first getting used to the winters here," the 6-foot-1, 205-pounder said. "Now, I really don't even notice."

Against Judge, southpaw Nick Paglione pitched two innings in relief of starter Dom Cuoci to gain the victory. At the leadoff spot, leftfielder Joe Picard went 3 for 3 with three runs.

Auteri, who earned second-team all-Catholic Red Division honors, plans to study biology at Wake Forest. With the aid of Parisi's recommendation, he could wind up playing baseball for the Demon Deacons.

"That would be great," he said. "It's been a lot of fun being back. I like thinking that it might continue next year."

Top 10. We continue our top-10 tour by taking a look at the area's best first basemen.

1. Josh Ockimey, Neumann-Goretti, junior. The Arkansas commit, who leads the Saints' bid for a third straight Catholic League championship, earned first-team all-Blue Division honors.

2. Chris Melillo, La Salle, senior. Through Tuesday, the Notre Dame commit, also a catcher, was batting .390 with 21 RBIs and three home runs.

3. Kevin Montero, Frankford, senior. Montero, who has seen limited time because of an ankle injury, was hitting .538 with 11 RBIs and 10 runs.

4. Evan Harvey, Archbishop Carroll, senior. A tight end and linebacker in football, Harvey batted .508 with 36 RBIs, 23 runs, and 7 homers.

5. Max Dolente, Conestoga, junior. A strong contributor from the No. 5 hole, he was a first-team all-Central League pick.

6. Charlie Hooker, Upper Moreland, junior. He hit .523 with 27 runs and 27 RBIs while sparking the Golden Bears to the Suburban One League American Conference title.

7. Sean Phelan, Devon Prep, sophomore. Through 18 games, Phelan was batting .462 with 21 RBIs, 17 runs, 7 doubles, and 3 homers.

8. Ethan Rode, C.B. East, senior. From the No. 6 spot, he was hitting .375 with 14 runs, 14 RBIs, 9 doubles, and a .667 slugging percentage.

9. John Santoianni, Souderton, senior. The 6-foot-3, 225-pounder, a cleanup hitter for the Indians, is ticketed for Villanova. He is also a lefty pitcher.

10. Matt Simon, Roman Catholic, senior. In a down year for the Cahillites, Simon earned second-team all-Catholic Red honors.

Independent tourney. The Pennsylvania Independent Schools tournament will begin Tuesday. Mercersburg Academy, of the Mid-Atlantic Prep League, and Inter-Ac League champ Malvern Prep are the top seeds.

The first two rounds of the tournament will be played at the site of the higher seeds. The semifinals, with Perkiomen School and Upper Perkiomen as the sites, and final (site to be determined) are set for May 25.

Here are Tuesday's first-round matchups:

No. 9 Friends' Central at No. 8 Episcopal Academy; No. 12 Westtown at No. 5 Hill School; No. 13 Shipley at No. 4 Haverford School; No. 14 Solebury School at No. 3 Springside Chestnut Hill Academy; No. 11 Germantown Friends at No. 6 Penn Charter; and No. 10 Germantown Academy at No. 7 Perkiomen School.