It didn't take Josh Ockimey anywhere close to four years to develop Neumann-Goretti's no-surrender approach in baseball.
"Yeah, I picked up that mentality from the beginning," the freshman first baseman said. "No game is over until the final out, no matter the score. It's about believing in each other and what we can do as a team."
The refusal to quit was needed in a big way Saturday in a Catholic League semifinal against La Salle. Hurt by four errors, Neumann-Goretti was stuck in an 11-0 canyon after 11/2 innings. Soon to be lost, it seemed, was an undefeated record and a crack at the title.
But a 13-run explosion in the sixth, highlighted by Ockimey's three-run triple and Jimmy Kerrigan's two-run homer, propelled the Saints to an improbable 18-13 victory over the stunned Explorers at sun-splashed Widener University.
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Ockimey, a lefthanded hitter, went 3 for 4 with three runs and five RBIs.
"The ball finds his barrel every time up," Saints coach Lou Spadaccini said.
Ahead by 13-3 in the bottom of the fifth, La Salle was one out from triumphing via the mercy rule. On a 3-1 pitch, Ockimey saved his squad from defeat with a two-run blast to right-center field.
"I knew going up there that it was a do-or-die situation," the 15-year-old said. "I said to myself, 'I'm not going to be the last out.' I got a fastball right down the middle and hit it right on the button."
On Tuesday, at 4 p.m. back at Widener, Neumann-Goretti (20-0) will face defending champ Monsignor Bonner (16-4) for the title. In Saturday's other semifinal, Bonner topped Archbishop Wood, 5-4, in 11 innings.
In the decisive sixth, the Saints were aided by seven walks, including four in a row. With the bases loaded, Mike "Zoom" Zolk, Joey Gorman, and Marty Venafro each drew an RBI pass. Zolk and Gorman walked on four pitches.
"We were down by 11, but I knew the game wasn't over," said Zolk, a hard-hitting second baseman and North Carolina recruit. "We have a team full of heart. We're the perfect example of a team."
Joe Kinee, the Saints' sophomore starter, allowed eight runs (three earned) in 12/3 innings. La Salle catcher Corey Baiada touched him for a two-run homer to right in the first.
Spadaccini called on Zolk to finish out the disastrous second and, later, used Joe Jaep and Gorman. With three whiffs in the last two innings, Gorman, a lefthander, notched the win.
Gorman was 2 for 2 with three RBIs and three runs; Kerrigan, a leftfielder and cleanup man, went 3 for 5 with three runs; and third baseman Joey Glennon (2 for 2, three RBIs) slapped a two-run single to left in the sixth.
For the season, Ockimey is hitting about .500 with 23 RBIs, 20 runs, and 2 homers. "He's a stud, an absolute stud," said Zolk, who was 1 for 3 with a pair of runs.
La Salle (15-6) equaled Neumann-Goretti's 14 hits. Starting pitcher Nick Burns (3 for 4) keyed an eight-run second - and sent Kinee packing - with a two-run single.
La Salle 380 20 0 0 - 13 14 2
Neumann-Goretti 030 02 13 x - 18 14 4
WP: Joey Gorman. LP: Mike Piscopo. 2B: LS-P.J. Acierno; NG-Gorman. 3B: NG-Josh Ockimey. HR: LS-Corey Baiada; NG-Ockimey, Jimmy Kerrigan.