For Twin Valley baseball coach Matt Royer, it was a homecoming of sorts. The Raiders' skipper previously was the head man at Spring-Ford and recently, before he moves back to Virginia to be with his family, has been living with his parents in Royersford.
Royer enjoyed revisiting the past, which included a PIAA District 1 championship with the Rams in 1988, but he gained no pleasure from yesterday's Class AAA quarterfinal state playoff against Neumann-Goretti.
Mark Donato, pitching on nine days' rest, tossed a complete-game two-hit shutout with 11 whiffs as the Saints muffled the District 3 champions, 1-0, under cloudy skies at Ram Stadium. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound lefty struck out the side in the sixth and seventh innings.
"He wasn't overpowering, but he knows how to pitch," said Royer, who posted a 153-132 record from 2002 to 2007 at Liberty University. "He had everybody out on their front foot. You have to give him all the credit."
Donato effectively mixed a fastball, curveball and change-up. He threw 95 pitches, 58 for strikes, and walked two. No damage came from three wild pitches.
"I felt good out there," Donato said. "My curveball was working pretty well. I was using that as my out pitch."
The junior and Division I prospect fanned a batter in every inning except the fifth. In the top of the seventh, after Justin Pacana, Twin Valley's No. 7 hitter, produced a two-out single to left field and pinch-runner Alan McCarthy moved to second on a wild pitch, Donato threw a 2-2 curveball past Ben Nelson.
"I didn't want to give [Nelson] anything to hit in that situation," Donato said. "At most, I wanted him to hit a weak grounder or something like that."
Next for Neumann-Goretti (20-3) is a semifinal matchup on Monday, at a site and time to be determined, against District 2 champion Abington Heights, a 6-1 winner over District 1 titlist Upper Merion yesterday.
Against the Raiders (17-8), the Saints scored the only run they needed in the third. After Reno Regalbuto's left-side bunt single moved Marty Venafro to third base, Venafro scurried home on an unsuccessful attempt to stop Regalbuto from stealing second.
Despite the wide throw from catcher Greg Reardon, on a strikeout pitch to Al Baur, shortstop Jesse May, and later Royer, mildly argued that May had tagged out a non-sliding Regalbuto.
"The [second-base] umpire said he saw a gap between the shortstop and the runner," Royer said. "But, beyond that, we have to do a better job of getting baserunners."
Neumann-Goretti coach Lou Spadaccini and his players said there was no advance scouting of Twin Valley, which made its first appearance in states since 1999.
"We knew nothing about them," senior catcher Joey Armata said. "We just showed up and played. That's what we always do."
Dom Riverso's second-inning single to left was the Saints' only other hit off No. 2 hurler Eric Geedey (95 pitches, 58 strikes).
Of Donato's two-hit performance, Armata said: "He was at his best, like always. He was placing his fastball on the outside corner, and they couldn't touch his curveball."
Twin Valley 000 000 0 - 0 2 2
Neumann-Goretti 001 000 x - 1 2 1
WP: Mark Donato. LP: Eric Geedey.