Michael "Beef" Sandefur is like a lot of baseball players, in that his personal coach is a family member.
And he listens when she speaks.
"My sister, Kristie, was a star at Neumann-Goretti ['05] and Cabrini," Sandefur said. "She holds something like eight school records, including career homers and RBIs. [Plus, there's a Facebook page called I Wish I was Kristie Sandefur.] She's always talking to me. After every at-bat, she tells me what I do wrong."
Pause. "Except for my two home runs. On those she said, 'You did everything right. Just like I taught you.' "
Sandefur, a 5-8, 240-pound senior, is the starting catcher and very occasional pitcher (more on that later) for Prep Charter, which Tuesday bested visiting Philadelphia Academy, 17-8, in a Public League Class AA third-round playoff at 7th and Packer.
Wednesday, the Huskies will trek to Front and Erie for the AA final vs. Esperanza Academy. A spot in Friday's overall quarterfinals also will be up for grabs.
Sandefur bagged his first RBI on a walk. Then, in the fourth, he blasted a grand slam to dead center - maybe 25 feet over the 320-foot sign - to cap a five-run outburst that created an 8-8 tie. On Monday, to the same locale, Sandefur clobbered a two-run walkoff homer to give the Huskies a 4-2, second-round win over Mariana Bracetti Charter.
"Before that one," Sandefur said, "I told [fellow star] Mike Borelli if he'd just get to second, I'd send something into the gap to bring him home, because I had the pitcher's timing down. He did get to second. But the pitch was such a meatball, I hit it out.
"That gave me so much confidence coming back for today. When I was walking to the plate, one of my teammates said from the dugout, 'C'mon, Mike. Put one out. Tie it up.' I told him I wouldn't be trying to do that. I wanted to hit a gapper. But that one went out, too."
Before stepping into the batter's box, Beef said a silent prayer for his cousin, Joey Sandefur, a former star lineman at Neumann-Goretti who died recently of flu complications.
Under his jersey, Beef wore a specially made Prep Charter replica shirt, with No. 33 on the back. That was Joey's number during his softball days with the Shooting Stars Mummers club. After attending Widener for a spell, Joey had become a computer technician.
"I'm still emotional about losing Joey," Beef said. "We were always together. Almost every summer weekend, we'd go have fun down Wildwood, and he was always at our house for Sunday dinner. Down Wildwood, we'd go to this baseball place on the boardwalk again and again. You throw three balls through the hole, you get a jersey. We'd win jerseys every time."
Now for the pitching: Making a surprise start, Sandefur lasted only three batters into the second. He'd hurled only one inning all season, as part of Senior Day festivities in a nonleague game, but Tuesday's intended starter was unavailable because of strep throat.
"Coach [Rob Hale] told me in the van on the way to the field," said Sandefur, who lives near 17th and Jackson and might attend Neumann University. "He likes to joke around, so I thought he was kidding. When we got there, I had to take out my cup and remove my compression shorts. When the pitching went bad, I had to make up for it with batting."
PC won it with nine in the sixth. The Huskies managed only two hits in that frame, homers by Borelli (two-run) and, wow, Borelli again (slam!). He finished with seven RBI and emerged as the winning pitcher as well, allowing no earned runs over two stints (second inning, fourth through seventh). Steve Miraglia worked the third.
For PAC, Trevor Newcomb and Travis Zink halved six hits and Newcomb won the RBI contest, 3-2. *