BROOKLAWN — A line drive to the chest in the fourth inning couldn’t keep Gloucester Catholic pitcher John Murphy from delivering another great performance on the mound.
Murphy, a junior, struck out six, as the Rams took down Camden Catholic, 4-1 in their Non-Public A South quarterfinal game on Tuesday afternoon. Murphy's effort, coupled with a solid day at the plate from senior Mike Garafolo, the Rams will host Friday's semifinals against St. Augustine, which was a 3-0 winner over Immaculata Tuesday.
In the bottom of the second, after a sacrifice bunt by Nick Seccia put runners at second and third, Garafolo opened up the scoring with an RBI single, scoring both Tyler Mondile and Fran Kinsey to give the Rams the early 2-0 lead.
“I just tried to put the ball in play,” Garafolo said. “I know it’s tough coming here and playing on our field, so I just wanted to put it in play.”
Gloucester Catholic coach, Mike Rucci, wasn’t surprised to see this from his senior outfielder. It's been the way Garafolo has played all season long.
“He’s been like that all year,” Rucci said. “He’s got a lot of big hits in some big chances. He did it in South Carolina. He does it again today. That’s just a senior stepping up and doing the job and that’s all we ask.”
Things became a little tense for the Rams in the top half of the fourth, with the score 2-1, when Murphy took a line drive directly off his chest.
“You think the worst at first,” Rucci said. “But I know he is a gamer, and I know he wasn’t going to come out unless his chest was broken. He’s a bulldog, but it was definitely tough to see.”
Murphy’s initial reaction was to show his toughness.
“I just tried to play it off like it didn’t hurt,” Murphy said. “It tightened up for like an inning, and then I did bands and it was fine.”
Murphy certainly showed he was fine and kept very good composure en route to a complete game win. He added, “You can’t show too much emotion on the mound or things can down-spiral from there, so I just try to move forward.”
After the scare, Murphy worked his way out of a bases loaded jam unscathed, keeping the game at 2-1 heading into the bottom of the fourth inning.
In that home half, Garafolo struck again with a single that came down just ahead of the outstretched glove of Camden Catholic’s right fielder. The single scored Mondile, giving the Rams a 3-1 lead, which they would carry until the bottom of the sixth.
The Rams went back to a little small ball after Mondile walked to begin the inning. After a sacrifice bunt by Kinsey, and a sharp ground ball hit by Seccia, Mondile stood on third with two outs. He would go on to score a couple pitches later on a wild pitch, giving the Rams an insurance run, making it 4-1. Rucci was happy with what he saw out of his offense.
“That’s what we do. That’s what we work for and what we do in practice,” Rucci added. “It’s good to see guys execute in those situations. That is what wins in the playoffs.”
For Gloucester Catholic, that, and a “bulldog” on the mound, have them continuing on to Friday's sectional semfinals.