Gloucester Catholic athletic director Pat Murphy thought about the baseball team's pitching rotation for a moment and couldn't resist the comparison.

"The only pitching staff better than Gloucester Catholic are the Phillies," Murphy said with a chuckle.

He was kidding, of course, but his point was well taken.

The defending NJSIAA Non-Public B state champion Rams are back with the Brown twins - Cody and Casey - taking the mound together for the first time since they were freshmen. The senior lefthanders should be the centerpiece of a solid pitching staff.

In addition to Casey Brown and fellow senior Bill Mendek returning from injuries, senior Jeff Paglione and sophomore Michael Shawaryn are slated to start for a team that went 24-7 last year. Paglione's record was 4-4, and Shawaryn's was 5-1. Mendek was 5-0 as a sophomore.

Cody Brown last year rolled to a 9-1 record, which included all three playoff victories as well as the 14th state tournament championship in Gloucester Catholic's illustrious history, the most in New Jersey. His ERA was 1.76.

Casey Brown finished his freshman season with a 7-1 varsity record and great promise while Cody sat or pitched in relief. Then came the injuries: a torn labrum while making a tackle as a safety on the football team in his sophomore year, and a baseball-related elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery in his junior year.

Casey Brown sat and watched his brother, older by 12 minutes, do what he felt he should be doing: pitching for Gloucester Catholic as well as Brooklawn, which won the New Jersey American Legion state title last season with Cody going 10-1.

"It was hard to watch, but at the same time, I wanted him to be good and the team to win, but I wanted to see myself on that mound," said Casey, who has been highly competitive with his brother since they played T-ball at age 5.

"The experience taught me how to be patient. It helps being a pitcher being patient because, being a pitcher, you don't play every game anyway."

Still, Cody Brown might be playing more than Casey this season because of his bat. Last year, Cody hit .378 with seven doubles, a triple, three home runs, and 29 RBIs. He can play in the outfield when not pitching, which is what Casey is hoping to do on a good-hitting team that batted around .370 last season and has almost everyone back.

"Sometimes I thought about him," Cody said about Casey, who sat watching him for two years. "I know he wanted to be out there. [But] if he was out there, I might not have been out there.

"Are we competitive with each other? Definitely. That was how we were raised. He hurt his arm initially in football, and I felt bad. Then he hurt his arm and needed Tommy John surgery. You don't wish that on anyone. But now he's 110 percent."

Mike Brown, the twins' father and an assistant coach on both teams for which they play, pitched and caught for Kingsway, from which he graduated in 1982 with a share of the Tri-County Conference title.

"This is something I've been looking forward to for years," Mike Brown said. "To have both in the rotation is something I'm proud of. They've both worked hard."

Coach Dennis Barth, who was instrumental in helping the brothers win scholarships to play baseball at Central Connecticut State University, also is upbeat about having the twins in the rotation.

"Sure I'm happy," said Barth, the Rams' coach since 1994. "Who wouldn't want lefthanded pitchers who throw strikes and are competitive, big-game pitchers?

"Both throw a fastball, curve, and change-up. They want the ball when the game is on the line."

The twins might not be Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee, but they just might help steer the Rams to a second consecutive state title.