Erik DeLone, a junior righthander at Roman Catholic High, is one of those pitchers who, of course, will accept help. But he'd rather get by without it.

So Monday, when St. Joseph's Prep slapped together a promising stir in the bottom of the seventh inning in a Catholic Red preplayoff at La Salle High, DeLone couldn't help but sneak a look at the bullpen.

"I wouldn't say I get flustered when I see guys warming up," he said. "But I do like the feeling of knowing it's going to be my game. It just keeps things from getting . . . I don't know, crazy.

"It meant a lot when coach [Anthony Valucci] came out and said to just calm down and get the job done."

Roman survived, 2-1. The 5-8, 160-pound DeLone worked an effective seven-hitter with one walk, three strikeouts and 15 groundball outs. Yes, 15.

"When I was younger, I guess you could say I was a strikeout pitcher," DeLone said. "It's not that my velocity is down now. I'm doing a better job of mixing my pitches and going for groundouts. I go with fastballs, sliders and curves. I'm working on a changeup, but not using it in games too much yet.

"Our defense did a great job. No errors. We had some fielding problems earlier in the season [DeLone included; he's also a part-time second baseman]. Things are going much better now."

Shortstop William Dougherty posted five assists. Second baseman Rich Houck managed four, while DeLone and third baseman R.J. Vaughan had three apiece.

With one away in the seventh, DeLone plunked Matt Stahl and then wild-pitched him to second. After gloving James Stewart's comebacker, DeLone managed to cut down Stahl at third. Stewart also advanced on a wild pitch, then Jawan McAllister singled him home. Kyle Gillen milked a walk to create more drama, but a Shane Williams flyout ended it.

In the fourth, Prep catcher Ray Toto smoked a one-hop double off the leftfield fence, then died on base as DeLone induced three groundouts.

"Toto hit a fat curve," said DeLone, who threw 27 of his 102 pitches in the seventh. "I told him after the game, 'If that had been a fastball, you would have put it over the trees.' "

Roman scored one apiece in the third (passed ball) and fifth (sacrifice fly by Houck). The Prep's Ryan Winton also went the distance, allowing six hits.

This game was the byproduct of a four-way tie for fourth (at 4-8) that involved Father Judge and Cardinal O'Hara in addition to Roman/Prep. Judge won a coin flip for fourth, while O'Hara settled for fifth. Tuesday, Roman goes right back to La Salle in a first-round game against the Explorers.

The Cahillites, meanwhile, began league play 0-5. DeLone's dealin' helped them recover.

"We never got down," Valucci said. "Grounders, that's Erik's game. He really relies on them."

Said DeLone, who lives near Roxborough and Houghton, right down the street from Roman's home field: "I didn't what was going to happen [personally] coming into the year. Coach did say I had the stuff to be our No. 1 starter. I've just worked hard at trying to get guys out."

And preventing calls to the bullpen. *