Top-seeded Archbishop Spalding wins its third straight in the elimination bracket to reach MIAA A Conference baseball finals; Cavaliers will face Gilman on Monday
by Joe DiBlasi
Top-seeded Archbishop Spalding, playing for the fourth time in the last five days, won for the third straight time in the elimination bracket of the MIAA A Conference Baseball Tournament, Friday, to advance to the tournament finals. The Cavaliers, who were sent to the elimination bracket with a shutout loss to John Carroll, on Monday, avenged that defeat with a 1-0 win over the Patriots in this win or go home battle.
Spalding now advances to play 2nd-seeded Gilman School, which is undefeated in this double-elimination event, on Monday in Roland Park. Gilman needs just one win to capture the championship. If Sapdling can win on Monday, however, it will force a decisive “if” game on Tuesday, which the Cavaliers will host.
It was the second heart-breaking loss, in consecutive days for Coach Darrion Siler’s 5th seeded John Carroll squad. The Patriots were coming off a 3-2 loss to Gilman in Thursday’s winner’s bracket final.
This late in a double-elimination tournament, when everybody’s pitching staff is exhausted, it is unusual to see two teams get such outstanding work from the mound, but that is exactly what happened on Friday.
John Carroll’s Michael Gibson-Robinson worked five strong innings for the Patriots, allowing five hits and the game’s only run, which was driven home by a sac-fly off the bat of Spalding catcher Ethan McNally in the bottom of the fourth.
Back-to-back errors and a hit batter loaded the bases for Spalding with no one out in the fourth. Gibson-Robinson then got a pop fly for the first out before McNaly was able drive the ball into right-center. Gibson-Robinson then retired Cavalier slugger Eddie Sargent to keep it a 1-run game.
“We had a man on third, and I had a two-strike count, and I knew I had a job to do,” said McNally. “We had to get that run in, and I was able to get an outside fastball and I took it the other way and got the job done.”
The Patriots also got a scoreless inning of work from Ben Pierce.
The Cavaliers Cody Sharman and Noah Mrotek combined on a four-hit shutout. Sharman, a sophomore, went 4.2 strong innings to get the win, and Mrotek, the Cavaliers’ ace went 2.1 to garner the save.
Mrotek may very well make the start on Monday against Gilman ace Peter Heubeck, meaning area high school baseball fans could be treated to yet another sensational pitching match-up.
Spalding coach Joe Palumbo, who probably would have preferred not to use Mrotek at all, turned to him in the top of the fifth, when the Patriots had a runner on third with two away. Mrotek retired JC’s Demetri Roros on a deep fly out to right center to end the threat.
Palumbo praised Sharman’s performance.
“When his three-pitch mix is working, he is hard to square up, and all three of his pitches were working today,” said Palumbo. “He kept them off balance.”
Sharman agreed. “My change-up was really good, and so was my fastball,” said the left-hander.
Palumbo credited McNally with a key at bat that plated the winning run.
“He shortened up on a two-strike pitch and got it into the outfield, which is what he had to do.”
Mrotek struck out the side to close out the win in seventh, but the drama was building in the sixth when the Pats’ Frank Adamski was at bat with a runner on first, and one away. Mrotek responded with a brilliant pick-off move to first to nab Cody Kurek, before retiring Adamski on strikes. It was Adamski’s 3-run homer off of Mrotek on Monday that gave Mrotek his only loss of the season.
“I was really pumped out there, especially in the 7th inning,” said Mrotek. “It’s a lot different when you hear the volume of the crowd picking up in a playoff game, as opposed to a regular season game. That volume and cheering helped me a lot.”
Mrotek applauded John Carroll.
“They are a great team. They are very scrappy, and they always fight back. It’s a lot of fun playing against them.”
Siler was proud of his team..”We held a great hitting team to just one run in 14 innings this week,
but they were able to get that run across today, which was the difference. There are no weak spots in their lineup”.
Palumbo had effusive praise for Siler. ” To hold us to one run in two games is very special. They pushed us to the brink”.
Pictured above: Spalding’s Cody Sharman (left) and Noah Mrotek combined to shutout John Carroll on four hits, advancing the Patriots to the MIAA A Conference baseball finals.
MIAA A CONFERENCE BASEBALL TOURNAMENT
ELIMINATION BRACKET FINAL
ARCHBISHOP SPALDING 1, JOHN CARROLL 0
JC 000 000 0 — 0 4 3
AS 000 100 x — 1 5 0
JC-Gibson-Robinson, Pierce (6) and Roros; AS-Sharman, Mrotek (5) and McNally.
2B: AS-Sargent.2021 A Baseball Bracket FINALS