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O'Hara's Grinnan takes one for the team

DH Scott Grinnan gets plunked with bases loaded to bring home winning run as Lions win preliminary Catholic League playoff game.

IN A CONVERSATION with someone standing 3 feet away, Scott Grinnan placed his injury problem into context by saying, "I couldn't throw the ball to you."

Nor would he try . . . Nor was he kidding.

Grinnan is a 5-10, 160-pound senior and has been a seasonlong factor for Cardinal O'Hara High's baseball team. The only thing he does, however, is serve as coach John Grossi's designated hitter, and the reason dates back to wintertime.

In the Lions' next-to-last hockey game, Grinnan, a right wing, fell to the ice merely while trying to change directions from forward to backward - no contact was involved - and his right shoulder . . . Ouch!

"I thought it was dislocated," Grinnan said. "But that wasn't it. I suffered a torn labrum."

Grinnan spoke yesterday after the Lions posted a 6-5, wild-and-crazy win over visiting Lansdale Catholic in the preliminary round of the Catholic League playoffs.

His lower back was a little sore. But he was more than happy to Grinnan bear it.

In a seventh inning that featured two hit batsmen from each team, and with the bases loaded after two intentional walks, and with five infielders staring him down, and with one run already in after LC had stormed to three in the top half, thus seizing a 5-4 lead, Grinnan absorbed a first-pitch fastball, John Banes frolicked home and all Lions went sufficiently berserk.

"When they were making their defensive change, coach called me over and said, 'First pitch fastball. Rip it,' " Grinnan said. "Didn't get a chance. Got hit in the back. Lower part. Right in the spine.

"I knew it was coming at me right away. The first reaction is to get out of the way. But then you have to remember that the bases are loaded. It becomes, 'Just get in front of it.' I did move a little. Flinched."

Earlier, Grinnan, the No. 5 hitter, had gone 2-for-3 with a pair of infield singles, a stolen base and one run scored.

On this theft, Grinnan didn't run the risk of causing even more damage for his shoulder. But on some others . . .

"A few times this year," he said, "I've used headfirst slides into second or home and it's been quite painful."

He laughed. "My father hasn't been too happy. Once I've gotten home [to West Chester], he's yelled at me every time."

Hockey is Grinnan's second sport, so you can imagine his frustration after suffering a serious injury so late in the season. He was not inclined to miss his final O'Hara baseball go-round, however, and DH duties have proved to be a good fit.

His average sits in the high .200s. Let's face it. If he were struggling, he'd be lower in the order or holding a pompom.

"Once I got hurt, I was still hoping to play," Grinnan said. "Once they said I could do this, just hit, I was happy.

"As the DH, it's a little harder to stay in the game mentally. But it does give you more time to watch the pitchers and see how things are [unfolding]."

Grinnan scored his run in the second, thanks to Chris Salvey's ground-ball single to center. The Lions added three in the fifth, erasing a 2-1 deficit and then some, as pinch-hitter Nolan Cummings, a lefty swinger, crushed a first-pitch, two-run bomb to right-center (about 355 feet) and Nick Donovan singled three batters later to score Banes (single, used great hustle to advance to third on a groundout).

The highlights of LC's seventh were Ian Conwell's sinking liner to left (one RBI) and Tom Gibbons' smoker into the leftfield corner (two RBI).

Bob Ieradi then moved from rightfield to the mound and logged a strikeout and popup to strand two guys in scoring position. Soon, he bagged a W.

O'Hara's game-winning rally unfolded like this: Kevin Clark got drilled in the helmet; Banes doubled into the leftfield corner; starting pitcher Will Latcham (in a re-entry role) sent a sac fly to right, scoring Clark and sending Banes to third; Donovan and Ieradi were issued intentional walks; and Grinnan barely had time to digest the situation before he was mobbed.

In tomorrow's first round, O'Hara will make a visit to its archest of rivals, Bonner-Prendergast. And Grinnan, who's set for surgery in late June and expects to be able to play second or third next spring for Catholic University (while majoring in biomedical engineering; eventual goal TBA), will continue his no-throws routine.

"The guys kid around with me," he said. "They'll say things like, 'Must be nice to only play half the game.' "

It's even better to take a pitch in the back that wins a game.