Playing at home as the road team, Eagles top the Dons in MIAA A playoff opener; McDonogh wins it first baseball playoff game since 1999
by Joe DiBlasi
For the second Saturday in a row, a Loyola Blakefield home baseball game against the McDonogh Eagles was moved to Owings Mills due to an unplayable field conditions at Loyola.
Last week the Dons prevailed, 4-3, in nine innings in a regular season game, but this Saturday the Eagles turned the tables and pulled out a 5-3 win in a MIAA A Conference playoff game, in a contest that was postponed at Loyola on Friday. The loss sends the Dons to an elimination game against Archbishop Spalding on Monday. The Eagles, lead by skipper Matt Tuneski, will be at Gilman (the No. 2 seed in the double elimination tournament) on Monday. The Hounds had a first round bye.
The game made some history for McDonogh. It is the first time that the Eagles have been in the A Conference baseball playoffs since 2004, and it’s their first conference playoff win since 1999.
McDonogh (15-13) scored four times in top of the third when freshman shortstop Everett Cooper got an infield single to start a one-out rally. Cooper reached base four times in his leadoff role.
“My goal is to get on base every time and start the offense,” said Cooper. “If I set the tone, it helps set the tone for the entire team.”
Brian Nevin hit a liner to third that was knocked down and gloved by the Dons’ Jeff Snider, but Nevin beat the throw to first.
Logan Lach drove home Cooper with a single to center and Matt Spind singled to left to plate Nevin, to give the Eagles their first two runs off of Loyola starter Nate Beal, who ultimately took the loss.
Beal intentionally walked Kyle Whitaker, setting the stage for Cory Kowitz, who wrapped a bases loaded two-run single to make it 4-0.
Kowitz said he got an inside fastball from Beal.
“I turned on it, and got the barrel of the bat on the ball,” said Kowitz. “I’m very grateful that it fell in. This game was a nail-biter and our team was able to make great plays in the field.”
Snider hit a solo homer off of Spind, McDonogh’s ace, who went 6.1 innings and held the Dons to five hits to earn the win.
McDonogh got an insurance run in the top of the seventh on a sac-fly from Evan Hertzberg, which proved important.
Loyola (13-9) drew within two runs in the bottom of the seventh and Tuneski lifted Spind for Whitaker after Dom Dinoto doubled to deep left.
Whitaker and Spind changed positions, and the move saved the day for McDonogh when Snider lashed a hard grounder to first off of Whitaker that was speared by Spind to prevent another run from scoring.
Tuneski said that the stop by Spind was a game changer. “Matt pitched well, that play at first made the difference in the game.”
“I think our defense is the best in the league,” said Spind, who los two decisions to Loyola in the regular season. “Our infield made every play today, and Logan (Lach) made a lunging grab in left, and Ethan (Mull) made a great catch in center. They picked me up all year and it continued today.”
Loyola coach Mike Kelly praised Tuneski.
“As far as I’m concerned he’s the coach of the year,” said Kelly.
The Loyola skipper also lauded Spind.
“I told my guys it’s hard to beat a pitcher that good three times in a season, and today Spind was a one-man show,” added Kelly. “He did a great job pitching, fielding and hitting. He made the plays today, and I give them the credit.”
Kelly said he was not upset about the fact that his team suffered a first round loss and moves to the elimination bracket .
“We just won 11-of-12, so we know what it takes. We will prepare for Monday and we will be ready.”
NO. 13 MCDONOGH 5, NO. 10 LOYOLA 3
MCD 004 000 1 — 5 6 0
LOY 000 100 2 — 3 5 3
Spind, Whitaker (7), and Heetzberg; Beal, Mumaw (4), Schenning (7), and E. Reynolds