Costes and Willis combine to snap the Patriots’ 16-game win streak

by Joe DiBlasi

It was probably inevitable that top-ranked John Carroll School would lose a baseball game in 2018, but after 16 consecutive wins to start the season, running the table was no longer out of the question for the gutsy Patriots.

Monday in Roland Park, the Pats (16-1 overall, 11-1 MIAA A) finally tasted defeat as unranked Gilman School, behind an outstanding pitching performance from Max Costes and Michael Willis, pulled the upset, stopping John Carroll, 3-2.

Willis, a right-hander, came on to start the third inning and allowed just one-hit in five innings of work. The lone hit was a harmless bunt single in the bottom of the fifth that was perfectly placed down the third-base line by John Carroll left fielder Matthew Rodriguez.

Willis stranded Rodriguez on first when he retired leadoff hitter Grant Astle to end the frame. From there, he would get the Patriots in 1-2-3 order in both the sixth and seventh innings to notch the win for coach Larry Sheets.

Costes started and pitched the first two innings for the Greyhounds. He gave up an unearned run in the first on a passed ball, and another run in the second inning when the Patriots successfully executed a double steal with runners on first and third, before giving way to Willis.

Willis walked one and struck out three and he didn’t allow a runner to get past first base on Monday, during a very impressive stint on the hill against the top-ranked Patriots.

Willis added insult to injury in the bottom of the first, when he doubled home Costes, who started the inning with a single and was moved to second on a sac bunt. The Willis’ RBI tied the game 1-1.

Gilman tallied again in the bottom of the second when Tripp Myers doubled down the left-field line with two away, and then scored to tie the game again, at 2-2, when Costes doubled to deep right-center on a shot that hit the fence on one bounce.

The Greyhounds got what proved to be the winning run in the bottom of the fourth when Gabe Gonzales hit a ground single to center with one out, and he advanced to second on a wild pitch. Tyler Martinez hit a bloop single to center field to put runners on first and third, and then Myers walked to load the bases.

Costes then hit an RBI sacrifice fly to center, off of reliever Hunter Tipton, that plated Gonzales, and Willis made it stand up.

“I was just looking to square something up and put the ball in play,” said Gonzales, the Greyhound second baseman.

Tipton came on in relief of starter Ben Pika, who took the loss. When Tipton hit Casey Bishop with a pitch after the Costes’ sac-fly, John Carroll coach Darrion Siler summoned in his ace Nick Collier to the mound.

Collier held Gilman (8-10 overall, 6-6 MIAA A) scoreless the rest of the way, but the Pats could not solve Willis.

“Today was a must-win. I had an amazing defense behind me. I have a lot of faith in my fielders,” said the Georgetown-bound Willis. “I had good command of my fastball and it was working well today.”

Siler praised Willis.

“He did a great job. He was filling up the zone and my hat is off to him for coming out and making the pitches he needed to make.

“Early on we had runners in scoring position against Costes, and we just couldn’t produce. When Willis came in we hit a few balls right at them. In the fourth inning we had that line drive to first that resulted in the double play after our lead-off hitter had walked.”

Siler was incredibly gracious in defeat after winning 15 straight this season.

“We didn’t have our best approach at the plate today. Some days you win and some days you lose, that’s baseball.”

“We played the way we’re capable of playing,” said Gilman’s Sheets. “We’re a good baseball team, we just haven’t shown it. Willis has thrown the ball well all year and that’s what we expect from him. We had good pitching today and we made most of the plays in the field.”

In addition to the sac fly that drove in with proved to be the winning run, Costes scored a run and also contributed a double and a single. The University Maryland bound senior said, “I felt like when we came out today that we could win. We got some big hits when we needed them and this was a great team win everybody played a part.”

Myers said, “This was a huge win and it’s a huge week for us. We have Loyola Wednesday and Curley Friday.”

With John Carroll’s first loss and Monday’s other results in the league, the A Conference standings are tightening up.

At 11-1, the Patriots still lead the pack, but Archbishop Curley (11-2) is now just a half game back after its 13-3 win over St. Paul’s.

Calvert Hall, which visits John Carroll on Wednesday, improved to 9-3 with a 7-0 win over Mount St. Joseph and the third-place Cardinals are now two games back. Loyola (7-5) topped Archbishop Spalding (6-4), 7-3, to pull within percentage points of the Cavaliers in the chase for fourth place, and Gilman remains a full game ahead of St. Mary’s (4-6), a 13-8 winner over McDonogh, in the chase for the sixth and final playoff seed.

Pictured above: Michael Willis (left) and Max Costes combined to lock down top-ranked John Carroll on the mound and produced at the plate, as Gilman handed the Patriots their first loss.

JC 110 000 0 — 2 4 0
GIL 110 100 x — 3 8 1
Pika, Tipton (4), Collier (4) and Stakias; Costes, Willis (3) and Heubeck
WP-Willis LP-Pika
2B: GIL-Willis 2; Costes, Myers.