Needing a win to reach the MIAA A Conference baseball post-season tournament, John Carroll got a clutch pitching performance from Nick Collier, who tossed a four-hit, complete-game shutout at visiting Loyola Blakefield as the Patriots prevailed, 1-0.
Collier struck out eight batters, including the final batter of the game. His team gave him all the offense he would need in the very first inning when Grant Astle, who opened the inning with a walk, scored on an infield error on a ball struck by Alex Marlow. Earlier, Astle advanced from first to third on a single by Ryan Archibald.
The victory allowed the Patriots (10-11 overall) to finish 9-9 in the league where they tied Loyola (9-13 overall, 9-9) for fourth-place. Since the teams split this year, it came down to Loyola’s tie-break advantage earned by a victory over second-seeded Archbishop Spalding.
This means, the Patriots and Dons will battle again on Friday, at Loyola, in the opening round of the double-elimination tournament.
The other critical game to the playoff picture took place at Joe Cannon Stadium where Gilman defeated St. Mary’s, 5-2, eliminating the Saints from the post-season.
It was a must-win for St. Mary’s, which had lost two of their last three league games, and the Saints sent their junior ace Stephen Pelli to the mound. The game was scoreless for four innings, but Gilman broke through for three runs in the fifth and two in the sixth to push the Saints to the brink.
C Darby opened the Gilman fourth by reaching on an error while bunting for a hit. Pelli struck out the next two Greyhounds, but Darby stole a pair of bases during the process to end up on third. J Melancon then bunted for a hit to score Darby and put Gilman up, 1-0. W. Weinfeld then drew a walk and Alex Slodzinski followed with a two-run single.
Pierce Bennett and Max Costes opened the Gilman fifth with back-to-back singles and Drew Ehrlich drove hime Bennet, who raced to third on Costes’ hit, with a sac fly. A throwing error on the play allowed Costes to move all the way over to third and eventually scored on a wild pitch.
In the home half of the fifth, St. Mary’s loaded the bases with a Brandon Cook single and back-to-back walks to Nick Cinquanto and Nick Hopkins. Cook and Cinquanto then both scored on wild pitches, before the threat was ended.
With the loss, St. Mary’s (17-12) fell to 8-10 in the league where they tied with Archbishop Curley for the sixth and final playoff spot. The two teams split in the regular season so the tie-breaker came down to the Friars 1-1 record against third-seeded Gilman, which completed a season sweep of the Saints on Wednesday.
Gilman (19-6 overall) finished 13-5 in the A Conference and the Greyhounds also fell victim to a tie-breaker, as they will be the third seed despite tying Archbishop Spalding for second. The two teams split and the Cavaliers edge came with their 2-0 record against fifth-seeded John Carroll, with whom Gilman split.
Thus the playoff bracket is set. Spalding and top-seed Calvert Hall will each enjoy a first round bye, playing their first games on their home fields on Monday.
On Friday, in addition to John Carroll visiting Loyola, third-seeded Gilman will host sixth-seeded Curley. The Loyola/John Carroll winner will advance to Calvert Hall and the Gilman/Curley winner will go to Spalding. Friday’s losers will meet on Monday, at the higher seed, in the first elimination game of this double elimination event.
The teams will continue to play next week, advancing towards the finals on Sunday, May 21 at Harford Community College.