Early and Stuck lead Gerstell to a victory in MIAA B Conference baseball finals; Falcons and Boys’ Latin will decide the title on Tuesday
by Joe DiBlasi and Gary Adornato
Needing a win to force a second and decisive game in the MIAA B Conference baseball double-elimination tournament, No. 20 Gerstell Academy leaned on a gutty complete game effort from senior ace Reece Early, who also blasted a solo home run, and the Falcons defeated No. 19 Boys’ Latin, 6-3, Monday at Harford Community College to extend the post-season of both clubs.
Boys’ Latin, which was won three consecutive league titles, came into Monday’s finals undefeated in the tournament and needing just one win to claim their fourth straight championship. At the very least, Gerstell has forced the Lakers to wait another day to experience a four-peat and, at best, the Falcons are now in line to capture their first B Conference baseball crown.
Gerstell (15-7), which had lost its three previous meetings with the Lakers this season, scored in the top of the first inning when clean-up hitter Chris Hagan, the Falcons catcher, was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. They went up 2-0 in the third when freshman Tyler Stuck belted the first of his two triples on the day and drove in Hagan, who singled with one away.
Stuck lined a one-hopper off of Laker starter Liam Karey through the right side of the infield and the ball just eluded a lunging attempt by BL second baseman Henry Genth. It then picked up steam on the HCC turf and scooted all the way to the fence in right-center field.
“This is definitely the biggest game I’ve ever played in and trying to keep my cool, especially up there at the plate, was really hard,” said Stuck, who admitted to some nerves on such a big stage. “I really had to just dial in and think just about the game, in the moment.”
Boys’ Latin (19-7) rallied in the bottom of the third when the Lakers scored all of their runs.
Sam Grace, who had three hits in the contest off of Early, knocked in two with a single to left and Charlie Hagan plated run number three with another single.
Gerstell regained the lead in the sixth inning with three runs of their own.
Early started the rally by driving a pitch high and deep over the fence in right-center. After Hagan drew a walk, Logan Satti doubled. This brought Stuck back to the plate and the freshman drilled a sinking liner into center-field that also found its way all the way to the fence, chasing two more runs home.
That was all Early would need. The Navy bound right-hander fanned 12 for coach Cap Poklemba, and got out of trouble whenever it presented itself.
“The fast-ball was really working and my slider, the slider was my go-to pitch,” said Early. “If I got up in the account I will definitely use that. It was nasty today.”
Early also extended himself a bit for his team.
“I haven’t really gone over 90 pitches this year,” said Early, who blanked the Lakers over the final four innings. “Usually I go five innings and come out, but today I went as much as I could to give my all.”
He shutout the Lakers in their final four at bats to secure the win.
Poklemba said the team got exactly what it needed from its senior leader.
“We knew coming in we were going to hit the ball,” said Poklemba. “We’ve been on fire at the plate lately. We stressed, we’ve got to throw strikes and we’ve got to play defense. We’ve got Reece. We knew he was going to come out and throw us a gem. He did a great job; he pitched today. Obviously, he throws the ball hard, but he pitched today. He threw a lot of great pitches. He stepped up. We’re a young team and we needed a senior to step up, and he did.”
Boys’ Latin coach Bill Greenwell tipped his cap to Early and the Falcons and said he will rely on his senior leader on Tuesday.
“He was outstanding,” Greenwell said of Early. “He’s almost unhittable some times. We put a lot of balls in play, but not enough. And, we did not do as well as we normally would do the rest of the game. We did not play extremely well defensively and they were the better team today.
“We have Sam Grace going tomorrow and I’m OK with having him in my back pocket. He’s a great player and almost refuses to lose. We didn’t get it done today, so we’ll be back tomorrow. I told the kids all I want to do is win my last game of the year.”
On Tuesday, the Falcons and Lakers will settle the championship, once again meeting at Harford Community College. First pitch is scheduled for 5:00 p.m.
Pictured above: Gerstell ace Reece Early (right) receives post-game congratulations from catcher Chris Hagan and coach Cap Poklemba (#26).
MIAA B CONFERENCE BASEBALL FINALS
GERSTELL 6, BOYS’ LATIN 3
GER 101 031 0 — 6 11 2
BL 003 000 0 — 3 7 1
Early and Hagan; Karey, McAslan and Grace
2B: GER-Satti, Rimel.
3B: GER-Stuck 2, Friedman.