N-G dyeing to win a title


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They are faced with a golden opportunity, and the Saints are taking it head-on.

The Neumann-Goretti High School baseball team entered the 2024 season as one of the favorites in the Catholic League after returning almost its entire team from last season. But it never hurts to add a little extra bonding to a tight-knit group of ballplayers from South Philadelphia. One-by-one, bleached blond hair started emerging from underneath their black baseball caps. It’s spreading faster than speedy Christian Cerone or Andrew Dankanich on the base paths. 

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“It’s not to my liking as they just kind of showed up one day and 60 percent of them had blond hair,” said Saints coach Nick Nardini. “I told them bleached blond hair is not cool if you’re a .500 team so if you’re going to have blond hair, you better win baseball games.”

They’re doing just that.

Neumann-Goretti secured a huge PCL victory with a 5-2 win at La Salle on April 24, while earning some payback against the Explorers, who knocked the Saints out of the playoffs last year. The win put Neumann-Goretti in a tie with La Salle atop the PCL standings at 7-1 through April 26. The Saints were 10-1 overall.

Jayce Park takes off his hat after recording the final out in a 5-2 win over La Salle. Photo/Mark Zimmaro

“It feels really good but we can’t let off the gas,” said senior pitcher Jayce Park, an Old Dominion University commit who thew a 99-pitch complete game win against La Salle. “This is just the beginning still. We have a lot of work still to do.”

Park has been a clutch performer since stepping on the mound in a relief role as a freshman three years ago. He bought in to the blond trend with some of his childhood buddies.

“We were looking for something cool to do as a team,” Park said. “Some guys didn’t want to do it right away, though. They’re waiting till after prom. But we’re all doing it after prom.”

Park quickly outed senior third baseman Will Gural as the bleach boss ringleader who formulated the plan. 

Jayce Park delivers a pitch. Photo/Mark Zimmaro

“We’re just a group of kids bleaching our hair and having fun,” Gural said. “I had long hair last year and decided to buzz it and bleach it and everyone followed with me.”

To his credit, Gural was just as clutch in the big win over La Salle, blasting a two-run double in a crucial four-run sixth inning, which gave the Saints a 5-0 lead. 

“It felt really good,” Gural said. “I’ve been swinging the bat pretty well but recently I’ve been in my own head a little bit. I thought to myself to just relax. You take every moment for granted sometimes.”

This team, in particular, seems to value every moment together. 

“We have an experienced lineup,” Nardini said. “For the first time in a while, we haven’t been this senior-heavy. But we also have a good mix of young guys, too. All these seniors are just great kids first of all, and they are great leaders. They do everything off the field the right way and they approach the game the right way and they do everything that I ask them. I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys.”

Neumann-Goretti coach Nick Nardini rallies his team against La Salle. Photo/Mark Zimmaro

The Saints’ big three inning-eating pitchers are all seniors as Park will graduate alongside Santino Pharma and Joe Gallagher this spring. Park has been nearly untouchable in his other starts this year, throwing a combined 11 innings of shutout ball (three combined hits) against St. Joseph’s Prep and Conwell-Egan. His lone hiccup was a 4-3 loss to Bonner-Prendie on April 19. His teammates knew he would be ready to face highly touted La Salle in his next appearance.

“Everyone believes in him,” Nardini said. “His work ethic is undeniable. And when you work as hard as he does, good things tend to happen. He pitched with confidence today and he’s just a bulldog.”

Park struck out eight Explorers to place another pressure win to his resume.

Second baseman Billy Smith applies the tag for an out against La Salle. Photo/Mark Zimmaro

“I was very confident,” Park said. “Even after a tough loss against Bonner, I still believed in my teammates and we got the job done. We just had to win. I don’t try to overthink anything. I just do me and I know my defense will back me up.”

Third baseman Will Gural scoops a ground ball. Photo/Mark Zimmaro
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Mark Zimmaro
Mark Zimmaro
Mark Zimmaro is a reporter for the South Philly Review. Follow him on Twitter @mzimmaro or email at mzimmaro@newspapermediagroup.com

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