Marc Narducci: Eustace's John Litz gets a memorable hit
Twelve at-bats. That was the extent of centerfielder's John Litz' varsity action as a junior in 2009 for Bishop Eustace, along with extensive use as a courtesy runner.
That was the extent of centerfielder's John Litz' varsity action as a junior in 2009 for Bishop Eustace, along with extensive use as a courtesy runner.
Maybe it was an indication of things to come that Litz got six hits in those 12 at-bats. But more important, it showed the type of perseverance he has.
This season, Litz got his chance to start, never left the field, and played an integral role in a 22-8 season in which Eustace won the Olympic Conference National Division and earned a trip to the South Jersey Non-Public B championship game.
Despite all he accomplished this season, it's doubtful that Litz will top the feeling he had after one of those hard-to-believe moments in the opening game of the 25th annual Carpenter Cup at Ashburn Field, down the road from Citizens Bank Park.
His Olympic/Colonial team was trailing Tri-Cape, 9-6, with two outs and runners on first and second in the top of the ninth inning. Litz, the player who had just 12 at-bats as a junior, was his team's last hope.
When the count went to 0-2, one could see everybody getting ready to pack the bags. An that is when Litz gave himself a lifelong memory, crushing a hanging slider over the left-field fence for a three-run home run.
His team would eventually score the lead run later that inning, and that stood up in a dramatic 10-9 victory.
"I wasn't sure it was going out, but I heard the coaches saying that it was gone," Litz said. "It was an unbelievable feeling."
During such a successful senior season in which he hit .391 with six home runs and 27 RBIs, Litz realized that his persistence during his relative inactive junior season was rewarded.
"It was tough sitting," Litz said. "But it was worth it this year because I was able to play every inning of every game."
And in a time when athletes are always looking for instant gratification, Litz knew he had to practice patience even though it wasn't easy.
"I decided that when I got my chance, I wanted to take advantage of it," he said.
That clearly happened this year.
It must be noted that Litz, who will attend Salisbury, where he is looking to continue playing baseball, would have played for many South Jersey teams as a junior. It's just that Eustace had a veteran team with a stacked offense and Litz was one of the players who had to bide his time.
"John came up big for us all year," said Eustace coach Sam Tropiano, who serves as an assistant on the Olympic/Colonial team. "He can hit and what he did today wasn't by accident."
Maybe not, but even Litz wasn't looking to go yard in the at-bat. Survival and contact were more of his goals.
"I was just trying to put the ball in play," Litz said.
At Bishop Eustace, the competition just to reach the field can be intense, which means very good players don't get to start. Players like Litz.
"It's been tough to crack our lineup," Tropiano said. "To John's credit he stayed with it, and I couldn't be happier for him."
There isn't a player who doesn't dream of rescuing his team from a sure defeat with one swing of the bat.
"To do this in such a prestigious tournament is really a big deal," Litz said.
The bigger deal was how Litz handled things when he wasn't getting regular playing time and how he has responded when given the opportunity.