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Neumann-Goretti edges Bonner for Catholic League crown

Earning all three wins in a 7-day period as your team captures the Catholic League baseball championship, with some plate contributions mixed in, well, that qualifies as a major accomplishment.

Earning all three wins in a 7-day period as your team captures the Catholic League baseball championship, with some plate contributions mixed in, well, that qualifies as a major accomplishment.

But on Joey Gorman's personal list, it might have to settle for No. 2.

In only his second year at Ss. Neumann-Goretti High, Gorman already is admired to such a huge degree, he's the junior class president (in addition to ranking in the top 25 academically).

Where was he, you might ask, during the 2008-09 school year? Mostly in hiding. At least for a while.

The 5-10, 180-pound Gorman, who Tuesday went the distance and laid down a crucial, two-strike sacrifice bunt as N-G bested Monsignor Bonner, 3-1, in eight innings, in the CL final in oppressive heat and humidity (no hints of a breeze, either) at Widener University, spent the first half of his freshman year at St. Joseph's Prep.

He got beat up pretty badly, though. Not literally. By severe social anxiety.

"It really is a sickness," Gorman said on the field, as the celebration continued around him. "I was afraid to even be in school. I just couldn't handle being around people. Didn't want any parts of socializing."

Over the second half of that school year, Gorman took cyber-school classes and, once his coping mechanisms improved, he even played baseball for Horace Furness High because that was the closest Public League school to his house, near 3rd and Ritner.

A switch to N-G came next and, by now, he's damn near the toast of the school.

Oh, and his shattered shell has been left so far behind . . .

"I now give talks to kids who are going through the same thing," he said. "Temple has a coping clinic. Kids know they can call me. I tell them things are going to get better.

"When I went to Furness, the kids didn't know the deal. At the end of that season, I wrote them a note to explain the situation and to thank them for taking me in. All the Neumann kids knew what was going on. It has all gone great. I haven't experienced any problems."

Gorman, a lefty thrower and batter (though he writes righthanded), pitched five innings last Wednesday as the Saints bested Lansdale Catholic in a quarterfinal. He worked the final two Saturday in a crazy-as-all-get-out, 18-13 semifinal win over La Salle, then was mostly masterful in this one, allowing four hits (all singles) and three walks and retiring 13 of the final 14 batters.

But his best moment, one that illustrated his true character, occurred at the plate in the eighth.

John Snyder, the No. 9 hitter, led off by smashing a double about two-thirds of the way up the right portion of the Blue Monster mesh fence in left-center. North Carolina-bound Mike "Zoom" Zolk was issued an intentional walk and Gorman fouled off not one, but two sacrifice attempts against Bonner's own ace starter, righthander Matt Dolan.

In the third-base coach's box, N-G boss Lou Spadaccini flashed Gorman a hit-away sign. Gorman signaled back, in effect, "Nah, I'm going to bunt this again."

Bingo. He did the job, then Marty Venafro followed with a hard groundball single past the dive of the pulled-up shortstop, Jim Haley. N-G, 2-1. Jimmy Kerrigan added an insurance run with a blooped RBI single to right-center.

"Not that I didn't have confidence of getting a hit," Gorman said. "But I had more confidence in getting that bunt down. That was what Lou wanted me to do, at first. I had to get it done for him. Nobody out. Two runners on. That was our best move.

"I just knew I'd do it. It's not about me. It's about the team. My job was to get those runners over, then have faith in the next guys to do their jobs. I had to stick my chest out more. Make sure I got the bat out front."

Said Spadaccini: "That's Joey in a nutshell. What an ultimate team player. He's such a special player. Most kids want to hit away there. To really be the hero. Joey just wanted to make the right baseball play."

Just then Zolk and manager Chris Miller ran toward Spadaccini from behind and showered him, from extremely close range, with a bucket full of ice cubes.

"Geez!" Spadaccini hollered while laughing. "You almost gave me a concussion!"

Of his base hit, Venafro said, "It was fastball low-and-in. On a 1-0 count, I expected it. I've been struggling a little, but I got a pitch I wanted and drove it. Off the bat I knew it was going to find the hole."

He added, "Joey was awesome on that bunt. Even with two strikes, he told himself he was going to do it, and he did."

In his three playoff outings, Gorman worked 15 total innings. He permitted 14 hits, four runs (earned) and six walks while striking out 12. Only once after the first, when Paul Shepherd's groundout scored Jamie Juisti, did a Friar advance as far as third base.

"With it being so hot, and with him having pitched Wednesday and Saturday, I was thinking maybe we'd have to relieve him at some point," said Spadaccini, whose team is perfect at 21-0. "But this has been Joey's year. Again he showed why. He actually was stronger from the fourth inning on."

Said catcher Nicky Nardini: "I've been catching Joey since we were 7 or 8. He's the best guy to catch in the world. We're almost always in perfect sync. His heart and character are amazing. He's the definition of our team."

He's also a no-longer-fearful Prez.

Title tidbits

N-G will play Franklin Towne Charter for the Class AAA City Title Thursday, 1:30, at Richie Ashburn Field, in South Philly's FDR Park. AAAA CT honors will be decided Friday, 1:30, at the same site as Bonner tackles the winner of Wednesday's Pub final (Frankford vs. Thomas Edison) . . . Bonner catcher Paul Shepherd gunned down three would-be basestealers . . . N-G, which also claimed the CL crown in '09, scored in the second on Joey Glennon's RBI single . . . Bonner reliever Kevin Giffin fanned the only two batters he faced . . . Counting coaches and JV callups, Bonner had 38 guys in uniform.