If Monsignor Bonner baseball coach Joe DeBarberie had a sense of déjà vu during Thursday's District 12 Class AAAA championship game against Central, it was understandable.
As they did in the Catholic League title game, the Friars (20-4) stumbled out of the gate, falling behind, 3-0, in the first inning. But they rallied behind the steady pitching of Joe Nestor and timely hitting of Alex Liberatore, Matt Ruggieri and Rick Reigner to post an 11-4 victory over the Lancers at La Salle High's Ward Field.
"We came out the way we did in the Catholic League championship against Archbishop Ryan, giving up three runs right off the bat," DeBarberie said. "But our kids came into the game very calm. They know they have seven innings to come back.
"I think coming off the high of winning the Catholic League title had some effect on the kids, but Central is a scrappy team. They fought hard and came out swinging. Our kids responded as they have all year. They didn't panic. They have a lot of resiliency."
After striking out the game's first batter, Nestor gave up a pair of singles to the Lancers (14-9), sandwiched around an RBI triple by Peter Rowe and run-scoring double by losing pitcher Kevin Pfeifer. But Nestor got back on track, registering two strikeouts to end the inning, leaving runners on second and third.
Nestor settled down and handcuffed Central for the next four innings, leaving the game after the fifth for relief pitcher Matt Dolan. Nestor struck out seven and didn't issue a walk.
"I didn't let the first inning bother me," Nestor said. "I know we have some great hitters and the ability to come back. Coach told me not to worry and make sure they don't get any more [runs].
"My change-up was my most effective pitch today. That's the pitch that they were swinging and missing on most of the game."
While the senior lefthander was cooling the Lancers' bats, Bonner's hitters came alive in the third inning, scoring five runs on three hits, highlighted by Liberatore's two-run double.
"I'm not exactly sure what happened on that hit. It looked like the leftfielder misplayed it," Liberatore said. "But I'll take it. It gave us the lead and took the monkey off our back. We took advantage of a couple of walks and put some runs up."
After Central closed the gap to 5-4 in the fifth inning on Pfeifer's second RBI double, Bonner responded in the bottom of the inning, scoring five runs to take control of the game.
With two outs, Bonner pinch-hitter Bill Lake and Paul Shepherd stroked run-scoring singles, followed by a two-run triple by Ruggieri and a one-run triple by Reigner.
"I hit the ball well into the gap," Ruggieri said. "As soon as it left my bat, I was on my horse.
"It feels great to win both championships, but our goal from the beginning of the season has been to win a state championship, so we have some unfinished business."
With the win, Bonner moves on to the state tournament on Monday against Great Valley. Central will meet West Chester Henderson.
Central 300 010 0 - 4 8 1
Monsignor Bonner 005 051 x - 11 11 1