Father Judge's Kurt Sowa isn't exactly high school's version of Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams, but he has had control issues in the past.
"My average pitch count for six innings was probably 120 or so," he said. "I would struggle in the early part of games, when I would try to come inside on hitters. I'd walk a few guys, maybe hit one or two."
Sowa, a senior righthander, had no trouble finding the plate in Tuesday's Catholic League first-round playoff against Cardinal O'Hara. He pitched a seven-hit shutout, with no walks and six strikeouts as the fourth-place Crusaders ousted the fifth-place Lions, 6-0, at McArdle Playground.
The 6-foot-4, 190-pounder threw 88 pitches, with 62 for strikes. He induced 10 ground-ball outs, including a 6-4-3 double play in the fourth inning. All of O'Hara's hits were singles.
"He's been a mainstay all year for us, with the exception of, maybe, one game," Judge coach Tim Ginter said. "We're in every game he pitches. His control has not been an issue. He's been consistently good."
In a Wednesday quarterfinal, the Crusaders will visit Monsignor Bonner, the Red Division's regular-season champ, at 3:45 p.m. "They swept us earlier in the year, so we want to get them back," Sowa said.
Sowa's fastball has been clocked in the mid-80-m.p.h. range. Last summer, while competing in a showcase tournament in Georgia, the radar gun had him at 88.
In the first inning against O'Hara, Sowa jammed his pitching thumb while covering third base and tagging out Nick Donovan on a toss from Tim Ross, who had faked a throw to first on Mike Schneider's grounder.
"My velocity dropped a little bit after that, but I was still hitting my spots," said Sowa, who mixed a fastball, curveball, and cut fastball. "I felt good."
Sowa, of Bensalem, will pitch at Rider. For Judge, the 17-year-old is also a smooth-fielding third baseman and switch-hitting cleanup man.
With three straight hits in their first at-bat, the Crusaders grabbed a 2-0 lead. Mike McLaughlin drove home Mike O'Hanlon and Kevin Elmer with a shot up the middle that caromed off second baseman John Kane's glove and rolled into center field.
McLaughlin, a senior leftfielder and first-team all-Catholic selection, went 2 for 3 from the No. 3 spot. He came in hitting a team-best .455.
In a four-run fifth, Judge was aided by two errors, two walks, and a hit batsman. Shane Malone welcomed Kane, who took over for Brendan Wassel, with a double to left that plated O'Hanlon (2 for 3, two runs) and McLaughlin.
Cardinal O'Hara 000 000 0 - 0 7 2
Father Judge 200 040 x - 6 6 0
WP: Kurt Sowa. LP: Jeff O'Reilly. 2B: FJ-Shane Malone, Mike O'Hanlon.