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Poduslenko lifts Malvern Prep to share of Inter-Ac title

The senior shortstop hit a three-run homer as the Friars blanked Germantown Academy.

WITH HARD WORK, anything is Podssible.

Malvern Prep's senior shortstop is living proof and, along with that, he's uncommon among quality athletes in the good, ol' Inter-Ac League.

Most franchise players in one sport are at least respectable in one or two more, and Joe Poduslenko did play football and basketball as a Friars frosh. Then he waved bye-bye to those two, turned his complete attention to doin' the diamond and, next fall, he'll enter Seton Hall with a scholarship.

"I was brought to Malvern to play baseball by , and that was always my favorite. And my best," Poduslenko said. "I did like playing football and basketball, but I was lucky enough to start as a freshman in baseball, so I knew that was the way to go.

"I dedicated myself to baseball and tried to make the best of it. I wanted to be as good a ballplayer as I could."

Solid move, kid.

Friday, the visiting Friars (8-1) clinched a share of the Inter-Ac championship with a 6-0 win over Germantown Academy, and "Pods" was front and center.

Or first and prominent. Your choice.

In the leadoff spot, the 6-2, 185-pound Poduslenko went 1-for-2 with a homer, three RBI and two apiece of walks, stolen bases and runs scored.

Poduslenko's homer, a blast to dead leftfield - it's 320 feet down the line, so let's guess about 335 - plated runs two, three and four in a five-run fifth, which expanded a 1-0 lead and created major breathing room for junior righty Gardner Nutter . . . not that he needed it.

Nutter struck out nine, owned a no-no through 4 innings and finished with a two-hitter.

In the first inning, Poduslenko milked a walk before moving up on a wild pitch and a ground ball off Matt Maul's bat, then scoring on a bloop single to center by catcher Steve Robinson (Penn State).

The early part of the fifth went like this: infield single by Chris Butera, single to left by Dan Grandieri over the glove of leaping shortstop Logan Sneed, sacrifice bunt/error combo off the bat of Brandon Gentile, bringing in Butera.

Next came the sound. You know the one. (Though Pods did not, at least not completely.)

"He gave me a 2-2 fastball and left it right over the plate," Poduslenko said. "Got a good swing on it.

"I thought it was just going to be a double over the leftfielder's head. Usually, I know when I 'get' it, or don't. But then I saw it go over the fence."

At times, Poduslenko's facial expressions while batting appear to be those of someone who'd love to yell to the pitcher, "Will you please throw me a strike?!"

Know what? It's all part of the master plan. Poduslenko - "Pods" to teammates, "JoePo" to family - doesn't mind taking a stroll. Though homers are cool, and this was his sixth of 2013, the rules do not allow you to touch 'em all, then trot to first base and try to steal second.

"I try to be selective up there," he said. "This is my second year in the leadoff spot, and I know my role: get on base and score runs for us. I had a really good on-base percentage last year, and I've kept that going. Not sure exactly, but I have 20-some walks and 20-some steals, too.

"I take a lot of pitches, because I know I can hit with two strikes. I don't swing at too many curves early in the count. Later, if it's 2-2 or 3-2, I try to hunt a fastball."

In the fifth, Matt Maul followed Poduslenko's blast with a double, advanced two batters later on a balk and scored as Mark Gentilotti greeted Sean Weiss with a sac fly to left.

Weiss (1 innings) and classmate Nick Popolizio (one inning) retired all eight batters they faced. The Patriots' hits were posted by Sneed (shot through the left side) and Michael Hanamirian (infield chopper to open the seventh).

Poduslenko, who lives in Glen Mills, plans to major in business at Seton Hall. He also hopes to make an early impact.

"Their current shortstop is a senior," he said. "They said I can come in there and have a chance at early playing time."

Next things first. Tied for second behind coach Freddy Hilliard's Friars at 6-2 are Springside Chestnut Hill Academy and Haverford Schoool. The Friars will visit the former Tuesday at 3:45.

"We're not satisfied with a share," Poduslenko said. "Hopefully, we'll get a good pitching performance from Billy Ford and back him with runs and win this thing outright."