Kegan Smith doesn't strike one as the type to overcomplicate what is already complicated - that is, throwing a baseball.
There's a pretty good chance that when the North Catholic pitcher throws to the plate he isn't thinking about breathing through his eyelids.
So when Smith allowed two runs in the sixth inning after cruising through five yesterday, the explanation was as straightforward as the junior's delivery.
"I got tired," Smith said.
And why did he get tired?
"I threw a lot of pitches."
Smith totaled 111 pitches in six innings and watched North hold on for dear life in the seventh as the Falcons survived Archbishop Ryan, 9-6, in the Catholic League North Division regular-season finale.
A 6-foot righthander, Smith (6-1) earned the victory, surrendering only those two runs off nine hits while striking out eight and walking two. But his hard work almost went to waste as Ryan erupted in the seventh.
The Raiders, down by 9-2, went double-single-triple, scoring two runs, to open the inning. An error brought home another, and Ryan loaded the bases with one out.
But closer Ryan Nally worked his way out of the jam for North (18-7, 15-6), inducing a run-scoring fielders' choice and a groundout to preserve the win. The Falcons finished in a second-place tie with La Salle, a 7-1 winner over Archbishop Wood.
Because North took two of three from the Explorers, however, it has claimed second place and will play the winner of Tuesday's La Salle-Father Judge game Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. at Widener University.
Ryan (18-7, 16-5) already had clinched first place with Monday's win over North. The reward is a nine-day layoff and a two-round bye into the semifinals next Saturday at Widener.
"The biggest thing for us is: How do you handle all this down time?" Ryan coach Ron Gerhart said.
The Raiders will face Council Rock South tomorrow and then possibly meet Chestnut Hill Academy or Council Rock North next week.
Against Smith, the Raiders failed to capitalize on their many opportunities. They left eight runners on the basepaths through five innings before finally getting on the scoreboard, courtesy of a two-RBI double by Mike Siravo in the sixth.
But the damage had already been done to Ryan starter Devin Weiss in North's seven-run fifth. Nally (3 for 4) led off the inning with an infield single and, after the Falcons batted around, capped the rally with a two-run single.
Little did Nally know those runs would help him as he moved from center field to the mound for a testy seventh.
"I was sweating a little bit there at the end," said North's interim coach, Tim Murphy. "But these kids are fighters."
Murphy is running the show for Gene Bryan, who had to step down before this season because of health issues. An assistant last year, Murphy has witnessed firsthand the Falcons' turnaround from last year's losing club.
"Chemistry was down every now and then last year, but this year it's been high," Murphy said. "The kids aren't quitters."
Leave it to Smith to pinpoint the reason behind North's revival.
"We're just playing good," he said.
Archbishop Ryan 000 002 4 - 6 14 2
North Catholic 100 170 x - 9 11 2
WP: Kegan Smith. LP: Devin Weiss. 2B: AR–Nick Ferdinand, Brandon Green, Mike Siravo, Kevin McGovern. NC–Chris Bonecorse, Ed Hepworth. 3B: AR–Ferdinand.