No. 2 Archbishop Curley continues hot streak with 13-4 rout of No. 14 Loyola; MIAA A Conference roundup and playoff seeding breakdown
by Pat O’Malley
The Archbishop Curley baseball team has really got it together and it showed again on Thursday as the Friars routed defending MIAA A Conference champion Loyola-Blakefield, 13-4, for their 12th consecutive win and a two-game regular season sweep of the Dons.
Curley has put itself in position to take the top seed in the upcoming A Conference double elimination six-team post season tournament and will likely replace John Carroll as the new No. 1 in the VSN Baseball Top 20 that will be published on Monday.This past Tuesday, the No. 2 Friars romped at home by 9-2 over No. 1 JC and afterwards, senior outfielder/pitcher Corey Burton, who had a sack clearing two-bagger in that victory said the Friars are exuding confidence and picking up each other as the season winds down to nitty gritty time.
At Blakefield, the Friars got an excellent effort on the mound from Burton, who spread out eight hits. He did not walk a batter and struck out nine throwing 96 pitches over seven innings to run his record to 4-0 with four saves. It was No. 2 hitter and senior outfielder Jalen March’s turn to take away some of the thunder from big guns such as, 3, 4 and 5 batters Paul Nixon, Trent Gast-Woodard (3-run dinger in a 5-run seventh) and Nick Brown.
March went 4-for-5 with a pair of doubles and a two-run triple .
Nixon’s spot in the order also produced four hits as the former had two with two knocked in and he got a rest in the fifth after pitching the Friars to victory over John Carroll two days ago and coach Brooks Norris got his big guy out of there, replacing him with junior pinch-runner Jordan Stroud. Getting a chance to play a little bit, Stroud, who took over at first base, took advantage by getting a knock in both the sixth and seventh innings. His second safety drove in two.
Curley easily has the most wins of any team in the metro area and will take its overall best record of 24-3 into its final conference game at home vs. No. 5 Calvert Hall on Tuesday (4:00 p.m.). The Friars lead the A Conference with their 15-2 record, followed by John Carroll (18-3, 13-3), which snapped a two game slide with a 5-2 home win over previously surging St. Mary’s (11-10, 7-7). A win over Calvert Hall, or one loss by John Carroll, will clinch the top-seed for the Friars. Regardless, both Curley and John Carroll are assured first round playoff byes.
Calvert Hall (16-8, 11-6), which crushed St. Paul’s, 13-2, on Thursday, is in control of third place and No. 14 Loyola (12-9, 9-7) is in a battle with Gilman (11-12, 9-8) for fourth place. The Greyhounds thumped Mount St. Joseph (12-15, 7-10), 10-0, on Thursday to eliminate the Gaels from the post-season. If Gilman, which closes its regular season against McDonogh on Tuesday, can get one more win, combined with one Loyola loss, then Greyhounds will claim the fourth seed and the home game that comes with it in the quarterfinal round, as they swept the Dons in the regular season. Loyola’s final two regular season games are against McDonogh, at home on Friday, and at St. Mary’s on Tuesday.
No. 19 St. Mary’s, which had lost four straight prior to Thursday’s loss at John Carroll, holds a half game lead over No. 12 Archbishop Spalding (13-11, 7-8), which snapped a seven game losing streak with an 11-1 win over McDonogh, on Thursday. The Saints and Cavaliers have a head-to-head battle on Saturday morning at Bestgate Park, in addition to their meeting with Loyola and a season-ender at St. Paul’s, on Wednesday. Spalding also will host John Carroll on Monday and visit St. Paul’s on Tuesday.
“Right now we don’t even know if we are in the playoffs, so we’re still battling with a big game tomorrow (Friday) with McDonogh (at Blakefield),” said Loyola coach Mike Kelly. “Usually nine wins in this league gets you in the playoffs, but I thought this year would be a little bit different and it will probably take 10 or 11 this year.”
The Dons notched nine (9-9) wins to get in last year as the No. 4 seed and shocked the world by winning it all for the first time since 1946.
Loyola went into the Curley contest after upsetting John Carroil, 5-2, the day before. Coaches always worry that after a big win like that on the road in Bel Air, that their team might let down the next no matter who they play.
Unfortunately for the Dons, Curley is so hot right now that it didn’t matter how high or low Loyola was because the Friars are dictating the script.
“Hey, they’re a good hitting ball club and we tried our best to keep ‘em down, but we made some errors (4) in the field and the last couple games we hadn’t done that,” said coach Kelly, whose Dons had won five of their previous six games before the Friars came calling.
Loyola took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on Dom Dinoto’s double and an ensuing single by AJ Holcomb. Curley then took a 2-1 lead in the top of the third on a two-run single by Nixon, but Dons’ junior catcher Emmet Reynolds, who was 3-for-3 with all doubles, tied it up at two in the bottom half with a wind blown double. There were a couple other wind-blown hits in the game as the gusty rippers played havoc at times when batted balls went up toward the clouds.
The Dons could not solve Burton the rest of the way as his teammates got him two, four and five runs in the fourth, sixth and seventh stanzas. Getting the final out in the third after giving up the tying run, Burton retired the next seven Dons in succession. A fielder’s choice by Will Glock in the sixth and Holcomb’s second hit and RBI in the last frame totaled the Loyola scoring, while the Friars put them away with their 16-hit attack, scoring their last nine runs in their final two at-bats with two outs in each of the innings.
“Corey has been our top relief pitcher, but because of injuries we had to put Corey in the starting role and he has been outstanding in that role,” sad Friars’ coach Brooks Norris. “For someone who has been a primary reliever his entire varsity career until the last three weeks. He’s been our go-to out of the bullpen the last two years.”
Burton said its really a pleasure going out there because “we are playing really great now and our pitching has been outstanding and Paul (Nixon, 7-1) has been amazing.
“I thought I threw well today relying on my curve ball and fast ball. They hit my change-up a couple times, but I was able to get ahead and mix it up a little bit.”
Stroud who came off the pines swinging, put it best in describing the Curley team “We’re playing phenomenal right. We’re first in the division and now we just have to stay on top.”
Pictured above: Paul Nixon (left) had two hits before getting a couple of innings off later in the contest and Corey Burton worked a full seven innings on the mound to get the win.
NO. 2 ARCHBISHOP CURLEY 13, NO. 14 LOYOLA 4
Archbishop Curley (24-3, 15-2) 002 204 5 – 13 16 1
Loyola (11-9, 9-7) 101 001 1 – 4 8 4
Corey Burton and Trent Gast-Woodard; Austin Mumaw, Patrick Campbell (4), Joe Tartaglia (6) and Emmet Reynolds.
2B: AC-Jalen March (2); LOY-Dom Dinoto, E. Reynolds (3), Emidio Bucci.
WP-Burton (4-0) LP-Campbell
3B: AC-March; LOY-E. Reynolds.
NO. 1 JOHN CARROLL 5, NO. 19 ST. MARY’S 2
Two streaks came to an end in Bel Air, as John Carroll rebound from two straight losses to end St. Mary’s four-game win streak with a 5-2 victory.
Gavin Wingard had a 3-for-3 performance at the plate, with two RBI’s to lead the Patriots lineup and Tyler Blittersdorf went 2-for-4 with a double, two runs scored and an RBI.
Ryan Archibald, who also drove in a run, made the start on the mound and pitched three innings. Ben Pika followed and went 3.2 innings to claim the win.
NO. 5 CALVERT HALL 13, ST. PAUL’S 2
Calvert Hall broke open a 1-0 game with eight runs in the bottom of the third and never looked back as the routed St. Paul’s, 13-2, in five innings.
The Cardinals collected 12 hits including home runs by Jose Torres, Mason Unfried and Ethan Koster. Torres was 3-for-3 with two runs scored and four RBI. Unfried also had four RBI with an RBI.
NO. 12 ARCHBISHOP SPALDING 11, MCDONOGH 1
At Spalding, the host Cavaliers snapped a seven game losing streak with an 11-1 win over McDonogh, in six innings.
Peter Godrick led the way with a double, a home run and two RBI’s, while going 2-for-2 with a walk and three runs scored. Austin Dillon hit a triple and had two hits with a run scored and two RBI’s. Justin Caesar and Nick Benitez also had two hits each.
GILMAN 10, MOUNT ST. JOSEPH 0
Mike Willis was absolutely dominant in a five innings for Gilman, as blanked the Mount St. Joseph on one hit. He did walk three, but struck out four.
Alex Slodzinski and Joe Melancon each had two hits, two runs scored and one RBI for the Greyhounds, while Casey Bishop had a pair of RBI. In addition, Danny Rosenfield went 2-for-2 with two runs scored.