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Schafale in control on bump for North Catholic

No Pain, No Gain

PLUM — The first inning wasn’t particularly ideal.

But North Catholic’s Tommy Schafale wasn’t about to let an uncharacteristic start on the mound — or a little bruise — lead to an early WPIAL Class 4A playoff exit.

The latter hurdle came when the junior hurler was plunked by an offering batting lead-off in the bottom of the first inning of a first-round postseason matchup against Elizabeth Forward last recently.

Tommy Schafale

“I was trying to turn out of the way and the ball tailed into my back elbow — which is my throwing arm,” Schafale said. “I got a courtesy runner and I went back into the dugout and was trying to keep it loose doing band work so I could go back out there and pitch.

“It was hurting for most of the game, but I tried to power through and do the most I could.”

He wound up pitching all five innings, not allowing another run.

“He gutted it out,” Trojans coach Andy Przybylek said. “We had the lead and he didn’t want to come out of the game. ... Just Tommy being Tommy.

“That’s what the good ones do.”

They have a short memory, too. Schafale allowed three hits in a row to start off the game, but shrugged the shaky start off.

“I did give up a few hits early on, but I trust my defense, so I was just trying to put it in the zone because walks kill,” Schafale said. “You cannot give up free bases, so after those, I was just trying to locate and put it in the zone ... I kept confidence in myself and did my thing.”

“Tommy normally gives up three or four hits and, unfortunately, he gave up about four in two innings,” Przybylek said. “He regrouped himself.”

Such self-assurance and shut-down throwing is what has made him stand out this spring.

“Seeing Tommy in the winter, he was no different than the other five jellybeans that were in the bowl,” said Przybylek, who’s in his first season in charge at North. “And then, all of a sudden, you put him out there for the first game, he went against a Division I recruit (Hampton senior and James Madison pledge Ryan Apaliski) and was able to win the game, 1-0, on a wild pitch.”

Eight days later, he quieted Highlands, allowing only one run — which came on an infield hit. With the regular season winding down and the Trojans tied for the WPIAL Section 4-4A lead, Schafale got it done once again.

“We needed a win and he slammed the door again,” Przybylek said. “He’s a special pitcher. He’s definitely going to be a Division I ballplayer. We do have a couple pro guys looking at him.

“He’s very small, but when you see him pitch, he’s very tall. He doesn’t walk anybody, he fields his position unbelievably. He knows how to control the run game because he’s left-handed. He’s quick to the plate.”

Throughout the course of the go-round, Schafale pitched 46.2 frames, posting an impressive 0.75 ERA. He piled up 54 strikeouts and allowed just five earned runs on the way to a 5-1 mark.

“There’s six teams in our section — he beat all five teams,” Przybylek said. “Most of them have been shutouts. He’s definitely the player of the section.”

“That’s a great honor,” Schafale said of Przybylek’s high praise. “There’s a lot of good players in our section. Indiana, there’s a lot of good players. Kiski, they have good pitchers also. That’s a great honor to have ... He always has confidence in me, no matter what, and always builds all of us up.”

Getting outs is the most important thing to the scouts Przybylek has talked to.

“He’s a true high school ballplayer that’s going to play on the next level,” he said. “And he’s probably one of the best teammates that you could ever have, too. He never misses a practice, he attends all JV games, and you just don’t see that.

“In this day and age, boy, isn’t it nice to have a guy that you know is the leader of your team? If you line up all 25 guys, I’m sure if I gave you five guesses who the leaders were, you wouldn’t pick him out.”

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