With its regular season complete, the Archbishop Curley baseball team needed an assist from No. 8 Gilman to reach the MIAA A Conference post-season tournament. When Gilman knocked off St. Mary’s, Tuesday night, Curley gained entry into the double-elimination tournament as the sixth and final seed.
Friday afternoon, in the tournament opener in Roland Park, Curley expressed its gratitude to the Greyhounds by pulling off a thrilling, 3-2, 10-inning upset of their third-seeded hosts.
Curley took the lead with one out in the top of the 10th inning when junior Nick Brown sent a high slider from Gilman’s Charlie Mather soaring towards Northern Parkway. The ball crashed high into the protective netting for an impressive home run. In the home half of the 10th, Curley junior reliever Corey Burton survived a one-out bases loaded jam to complete 3.1 innings of outstanding work to close out the game and earn the win.
The last half inning was full of drama. With the sacks full and one out, Gilman’s Pierce Bennett slapped a bouncing ball towards third. Curley third-baseman Gavin Evans initially gloved the ball, but dropped it in his haste to touch third and throw home for a potential game-ending double-play. Evans retrieved the ball and stepped towards third, but never touched the bag, before firing to the plate. The ball arrived ahead of the runner, but Gilman’s Ryan Williamson, who led-off the inning with a single, beat the tag of Curley catcher Trent Gast-Woodward.
With the Gilman bench celebrating what it thought was the tying run, the umpires conferred, ruling Williamson out at the plate on a force and leaving bases loaded with two down. This brought Gilman slugger Max Costes to the plate. Costes, a junior who is committed to the University of Maryland, blistered a line drive towards the right side, but right at Curley second-baseman Zeke Maldonado, who snagged it just above his shoe tops for the final out.
“I was a little tired,” said Burton of his final pitch. “I tried to get my curve ball over. I hung one a little bit and he hit it good, but it went to a player.”
Curley coach Brooks Norris was not surprised Burton found a way to come through for the Friars.
“Corey’s been huge for us,” said Norris. “He’s been unbelievable. He’s got an ERA under one and he’s always in tough situations, whether we need him to throw an inning, two innings, four innings, it doesn’t matter. The kid has more heart than anybody I know and certainly did the job today.”
Despite being 0-for-4 prior to his prodigious game-winning blast, Brown has been surging at the plate for Curley over the second half of the season.
“Nick is a very good hitter,” said Norris. “He came up with us as a freshman. He hit about .280 as a freshman, and .340 last year. He was really, really struggling half way through the year. He was in the low two hundreds and he has really picked up the last three or four weeks. He’s up around .300 right now and this was his fifth or sixth home run this year, so he has really picked it up.”
According to Brown, he was not thinking home run while facing Gilman’s Charlie Mather in the 10th.
“It was a slider up and in,” said Brown, who also gunned down a Gilman runner at the plate with an outstanding throw from right-field in the sixth inning. “I was trying to hit the ball hard, trying to get on for the team. It ended up going out.”
Gilman (22-10) used five pitchers in the game and Curley used four as each coach was trying to protect his staff in hopes of a long run in the double-elimination event.
Curley (16-12) broke through first, scoring one run in the top of the fourth. Gast-Woodard opened the inning with a walk and Paul Nixon, who made the start and pitched four solid innings for the Friars, chased Gast-Woodard to third with a single. Jalen March then drove home the run with a sac fly to left.
Gilman came right back as Drew Ehrlich hit the first of his two doubles in the game, leading off the home half of the fourth. Charlie Darby then bunted for a base hit and the Greyhounds had runners on the corners against Nixon. Mike Willis was next and he reached on an infield error, allowing Ehlrich to score, still with no one out. Later in the inning, with two outs and runners on second and third, Nixon got Joe Melancon to swing and miss at a ball in the dirt, for the a third strike, but the ball scooted to the backstop. Melancon reached first safely and Willis charged home with Gilman’s second run.
It stayed that way until the top of the seventh when March delivered a leadoff single for Curley. Ehrlich came out from behind the plate to relieve Alex Slodzinski, who had pitched two scoreless innings for the Greyhounds. Wesley Meadowcroft sacrificed March to second and pinch-hitter Colton Knoble was hit by a pitch, putting two on with one down. No. 9 hitter Derrick Booker then delivered an RBI single to tie the game.
The Friars appeared as if they might go in front when Tyler Locklear laced a sinking line drive to left, with runners on second and third and two down. Melancon, however, made an outstanding diving catch to save two runs.
A two-out double by Ehrlich in the seventh, followed by a walk to Darby, put the Greyhounds in position for a walk-off win, but Burton came on in relief of LJ Barkley, who started the inning on the mound for Curley, and coaxed a ground ball for the final out. Gilman also got two on with one out in the eighth, but again Burton wiggled out of the jam. Curley threatened with a hit and a walk in the ninth, but Mather worked out of it.
The ability of his team to persevere through so many tough situations is a sign to Norris that his team is finally reaching its potential.
“The guys have really played hard and stayed positive,” said Norris. “We had a rough start this year. We have a ton of ability on this team and we weren’t playing up to our potential. We got through the first round through the conference and really started picking it up. Defense has been outstanding the second half. Pitching has been very, very good. Our pitching was outstanding today, giving up two runs in 10 innings and we got some clutch hits.
“We still haven’t come close to our potential offensively, on a consistent basis, but we got some clutch hits, but our guys played hard and stayed positive, and we go the job done today.”
Although disappointed with the outcome, Gilman coach Larry Sheets said his team is capable of making the same type of run as it did last year, when they went from the elimination bracket all the way to finals, forcing an “if game” with three-time defending champion Archbishop Spalding.
“The way we pitch, we’ll play all week next week,” said Sheets. “We’ll line them up and we’ll go as long as we can. Last year we lost our second game and just kept muddling right through and that’s obviously the goal now because the next one, you’re done. It was a tough game, a well played game, we came out on the short end.”
Both teams will return to action on Monday, as the tournament continues. Curley will travel to second-seeded Archbishop Spalding in a winners’ bracket game, while Gilman will host John Carroll in an elimination game.
Loyola, which defeated John Carroll, 5-3, in Friday’s other first round game, will visit top-seed Calvert Hall in Monday’s other winners’ bracket contest.
Loyola (10-13), which lost 1-0 to John Carroll in the regular season finale in Bel Air, on Monday, scored four times in the bottom of the sixth, Tuesday, erasing a 3-1 deficit.
Jack Reinhardt drove in two runs to lead the sixth-inning rally, while Miguel Mateo and Will Glock each had a pair of hits for the Dons.
Stelio Stakias had two hits and an RBI for John Carroll (10-12). Nico Santoro and Brad Hock also had RBI’s for the Patriots.
Pictured above: Curley pitcher Corey Burton
MIAA A CONFERENCE BASEBALL TOURNAMENT
LOYOLA 5, JOHN CARROLL 3
JC 000 300 0 — 3 6 2
LOY 010 004 x — 5 8 1
Marlow and Archibald;Wyatt, Glock (4) and Glock, Sheehan (4).
2B: JC-Marlow; LOY-Mateo, Snider, Dinoto.
ARCHBISHOP CURLEY 3, NO. 8 GILMAN 2, 10 INNINGS
AC 000 100 100 1 — 3 7 5
GIL 000 200 000 0 — 2 11 0
Engermann, Costes (3), Willis (5), Ehrlich (7), Mather (9) and Ehrlich, Weinfeld (7), Ehrlich (9); Nixon, Barkley (5), Richardson (5), Burton (7) and Gast-Woodward.
2B: AC-Booker; GIL-Ehrlich (2).