TOMMY ALBERTSON might carry a 3.9 GPA, but he can't use that impressive noodle at the plate because it just gets in the way.
Yesterday, the La Salle High junior had no such worries, helping the host Explorers to a 15-5, come-from-behind, five-inning, mercy-rule throttling of Cardinal O'Hara in a battle of the top teams in the Catholic League's Red Division.
"Whenever I think too much, I do badly," Albertson said. "So, I just try to clear my mind, look for a pitch and, I consider myself an aggressive hitter, so anything in the strike zone that's a fastball, I'm swinging."
That simple strategy helped Albertson, a 5-11, 170-pound leftfielder, go 3-for-4 with four RBI. Most significant was a bases-loaded double that plated three and gave the Explorers (8-2) their first lead at 5-4 in the third.
Not bad for a guy who recently cracked the starting lineup and didn't even start when the teams matched up April 2 (O'Hara won, 4-3). "I used to try and take big swings," he said. "I've shortened it up this year. Just look to hit the ball as hard as I can, but not [necessarily] put it over the fence."
The Explorers have somebody for that.
Under a concrete-colored sky and an occasional spritz, O'Hara (7-3) jumped on La Salle starter John Scheffey for a 4-1 lead after two innings.
That is until senior third baseman Dom Cuoci (2-for-4, two RBI) belted a solo home run to left, well out of Ward Field, and cut the Lions' lead to 4-2 in the third, but more importantly for the Explorers, seemed to rattle O'Hara ace Will Latcham.
Latcham didn't have his best stuff, but still nattily navigated a few early jams. However, he ultimately allowed 11 hits, 12 runs (seven earned), four walks and had one strikeout. Fielding lapses, O'Hara finished with four errors, certainly didn't help the strong-armed righty's cause.
Following Cuoci's rocket, the Explorers exploded for four more runs in the third and nine in the fourth.
"There was a little momentum shift in the game," Albertson said. "Dom's home run was big and definitely got us fired up and we just kinda kept rolling after that."
Senior catcher Nick Dermo went 3-for-3 with two RBI. Junior centerfielder Jimmy Herron went 2-for-4 and scored thrice. Junior Brian Buckley (1-for-1) also drove in a pair and scored twice.
Scheffey earned the win. He gave up five runs (four earned), allowed five hits, walked three and fanned two. La Salle also committed four errors.
Senior John Banes doubled and drove in three runs for the Lions while fellow juniors Chris Salvey and Colin McGuire also doubled.
As for Albertson, the Phoenixville resident teammates call "Albie," said he had his eyes on a starting gig all along. This is his first season of varsity baseball.
"I was thinking from the beginning of the season, as soon as they put me in I'm going to make the most of my opportunities," he said. "So whenever I got the chance [I was ready]. I worked hard in the offseason and felt like I was ready for a starting role, and I made it happen.
"Beginning of the season, I was kinda just getting little pinch-hits here and there, but not really starting. But then I kind of made the most of my opportunities."
As he spoke, teammates catcalled "Albie" from the dugout. "Yeah, Albie, first interview!" one joked. He just flashed a grin from baseline to baseline.
Academically, Albertson still has time to decide, but even if that noggin' doesn't help at the plate, he's thinking about biology, biochemistry or biochemical engineering in college.
The only son of Tom and Sherry, Albertson said he is a quiet kid until you get to know him and that there isn't much else to him.
"People always ask, 'What's the most unique thing about you?' " he said, smiling. "The only thing I got is that I'm an only child. That's it."