Gilman baseball coach Larry Sheets has developed a winning formula in which he prefers to use many pitchers over the course of a game, not letting opposing hitters get too many looks at the same guy.
Monday afternoon at Calvert Hall, however, Sheets deviated from that plan a bit, letting junior Max Costes toss five innings of relief, and Costes delivered for his skipper, shutting down the top-ranked Cardinals and leading the second-ranked Greyhounds to a 4-2 victory, in the MIAA A Conference opener for both teams.
Costes came on after Gilman starter Mike Willis surrendered four hits and two runs to Calvert Hall in the bottom of the first inning and then walked the leadoff hitter in the bottom of the second. He proceed to strike out the first two batters he faced and got Calvert Hall’s AC Chavis to bounce into a fielder’s choice to end the threat. Costes would go on to allow just one hit and two walks, while striking out five in his five innings of work. Senior Drew Ehrlich, who caught the first six innings then came on pitch a perfect seventh inning, with two strikeouts, to earn the save.
“He was commanding his pitches,” said Sheets of his decision to stick with Costes. “He had some getty-up on his fastball and had a pretty good breaking ball. It wasn’t stressful. He was staying ahead and that makes a big difference.”
Getting ahead in the count was the key according to Costes.
“As long as I knew I threw strikes and kept the pitch count down low, I knew I was going to do well,” said Costes. “Coach Sheets was telling us about first pitch strikes. If you get first pitch strikes, your pitch count will stay low.”
“Max did a great job out there,” said Ehrlich. “He really worked a lot of off-spead, a lot outside, forcing them to drive it the other way. He did a great job of spotting his pitches and mixing it up.”
Ehrlich also sparked the Gilman offense. With one out in the top of the second inning, he laced a liner down the right field line, off Calvert Hall starter Matt Hentschell, and ball carried over the wall, safely inside the foul poll, putting the Greyhounds on the board.
“He gave me a fastball on the outside corner,” said Ehrlich of the home run swing. “I thought I would drive it the other way and luckily it had enough to get over the fence. It gave us a little boost.”
Gilman would go on to score two more times in the second to take a 3-2 lead. Designated hitter Alex Slodzinski reached on an error and stole second. He moved to third on a bloop single by Joe Melancon and scored on a perfectly executed safety squeeze by Charlie Darby. Sophomore Tyler Martinez then doubled home Melancon with the third run.
It stayed that way until the Gilman fifth when Darby was hit by a pitch to leadoff the inning. He moved to second a bunt single by Martinez and both runners moved up on a sac bunt by Ryan Williamson. Costes was intentionally walked to load the bases and Willis drove in the insurance run with a fielder’s choice grounder.
“I think this is Gilman baseball,” said Sheets. “We’re going to bunt guys around. We’re going to get some big hits and, hopefully, we’re going to pitch. Today, we did.”
Calvert Hall appeared as if it might have a big offensive performance when it jumped on top in the bottom of the first inning. After Willis struck out Brendan Webster to begin the inning, Chavis and JP Murphy ripped back-to-back singles through the box to put runners on the corners. Catcher Garrett Matheny then drove home Chavis with a fielder’s choice grounder to short. First-baseman James Elmore extended the inning with another single to center-field, setting the stage for a RBI single by Gabe Nieto.
With six men left on base, Calvert Hall coach Lou Eckerl said his team had its chances.
“We didn’t capitalize on the opportunities we had today,” said Eckerl. “Against good teams you have to do that. When you get guys in scoring position, you have to put runs on the board and we didn’t do that today.”
Sheets was happy with the victory, but he knows it was just the first step on a long journey.
“We talk about, over here, getting points,” said Sheets. “Today we got a point and we have 17 more chances. It’s a long ways to go.”
NO. 2 GILMAN 4, NO. 1 CALVERT HALL 2
GIL 030 001 0 — 4 9 2
CH 200 000 0 — 2 5 1
Willis, Costes (2), Ehrlich (7) and Ehrlich, Bush (7)
2B: GIL-Martinez, Costes; CH-Elmore.