Both teams were satisfied Tuesday in Towson, including the loser.
Well, almost as VSN’S Top-ranked Calvert Hall defeated No. 3 Bel Air, 5-1, in a non-conference baseball game that both teams needed for different reasons.
The host victors, now 3-1, were coming off a 4-2 loss to No. 2 Gilman in the MIAA A Conference on Monday, while the losers haven’t been outside much up there in the north, Harford County, and needed the work in their first game, more than anything else, to get ready for Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference (UCBAC) play.
“I wasn’t happy with the outcome with Gilman. It was the first league game and everybody was tight,” said Calvert Hall coach Lou Eckerl. “It was a great game, so I mean, 4-2. We had opportunities and just didn’t cash in. They’re a good team. You gotta cash in on the opportunities or you’re going to lose.”
Eckerl’s Cardinals cashed in on Tuesday against the Bobcats and scored all of their runs with two outs in three of four different innings to make a winner out of senior lefty Tim Dragonette, who was making his first varsity start. Dragonette held the defending MPSSAA 4A State champion Bobcats to one run, just three hits, walked two, hit a batter and struck out four in five innings of work. Junior right-hander Colin Flynn fired two scoreless innings yielding two hits and punching out three to close it out.
“I was very happy with them (Dragonette and Flynn),” said Eckerl. “They did very well. They kept the batters off balance and we played good defense behind them. And we scored some runs which is what we didn’t do the day before.”
In contrast, Bel Air coach John Swanson said his team only had four practices outside when the snow hit up north, as it usually does, forcing his guys to practice in the gym.
“This is the first time we have actually been out to play and see live pitching,” Swanson said. “But we hit the ball hard today, but we had some opportunities with some guys on base and came up short. They made pitches when they had to and you have to tip your hat to them. It was game one for us and I’m happy.”
Bel Air’s No. 3 hitter, shortstop Michael Yetter, ripped a shot to center in the third inning with a man aboard, but it was snared by a diving Michael Poling. And in the fifth, Chris Slembecker , whose fielder’s choice scored Drew Gagdon with the visitors only run in the second, led off after being hit by a pitch to start the fifth frame. Slembecker, the son of former 1977 All-Metro Overlea shortstop (over Aberdeen’s Cal Ripken, Jr.) and Minnesota Twins farm hand, George Slembecker, was erased when catcher Matt Billing’s rocket to Cards’ third baseman Gabe Nieto was turned into a 5-4-3 double-play.
“I tell our guys you want to play the best that we can possibly play,” said the Bobcat coach, who owns two state titles in his 13 years as head coach. “Calvert Hall is in that echelon. Our goal is to get our boys ready for the regional run. That’s our main focus and purpose. We want to win every ball game, but if we lose and see where our weaknesses are and that makes us stronger when we get to the end.”
Swanson got a good effort from his starter, senior lefty Zack Radcliffe, and Yetter, each of whom threw no-hitters in last year’s 4A North regional. Radcliffe went four innings against the Hall, giving up three hits, three runs, a walk and struck out four on 43 pitches. Hall catcher Garrett Matheny singled and later scored on a wild pitch, with two outs in the second to tie the game at one, and Nieto doubled in a pair with two outs in the fourth, scoring Austin Chavis and Jimmy Elmore.
Leadoff batter Brendan Webster doubled to center with two gone in the bottom of the Cardinals’ fifth and raced home when Chavis doubled to center off Yetter, who pitched the last two innings. Trevor Daugherty’s fielder’s choice in the sixth scored JP Murphy. That was more than enough runs for Dragonette and Flynn each of whom credited pitching coach and Calvert Hall great of the mid 90’s, Andy Bair for their progress.
“I got my curve ball down and everything was working,” said Flynn, adding “Coach Bair has been working with me to keep my shoulder through.”
Dragonette credited Bair for “changing my form today and getting me to use a higher leg kick to help my follow through. He taught me my new two-seamer that was diving and tailing like crazy. He moved my fingers up.”
With their performances, Dragonette and Flynn only added to the team’s pitching depth according to the former.
“We don’t have anybody overpowering on our staff, but everybody can throw strikes and get movement on the ball,” said Dragonette. “Coach Bair has been a huge help with the mental side of the game.”
NO. 1 CALVERT HALL 5, NO. 3 BEL AIR 1
Bel Air (0-1) 010 000 0 – 1 5 1
Calvert Hall (3-1) 010 211 X – 5 5 0
BA – Zack Radcliffe, Mike Yetter (5) and Matt Billing.
CH – Tim Dragonette, Colin Flynn (6) and Garrett Matheny.
2B – CH – Jimmy Elmore, Dave Nieto, Brendan Webster and Austin Chavis.