Junior Parker Thomas and all of Archbishop Spalding’s returning baseball players have had a sour taste in their mouths for nearly a year. Now they’re one step away from doing what couldn’t be done last year – winning the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference crown.
With a 7-2 win over Calvert Hall on Thursday, No. 1 seed Spalding will enjoy the fruits of his labor throughout the weekend as he awaits Calvert Hall and John Carroll’s winner in the MIAA A Conference Championship. Monday.
The Cardinals have a chance to redeem themselves Friday in the consolation bracket.
“It always feels like we have work to do,” Spalding coach Joe Palumbo said. “Last year we failed and we have worked hard in the meantime to put ourselves in a position to finish this year.”
The Cavaliers (26-4) beat John Carroll, 1-0, on Tuesday. According to Palumbo, a rematch against the Patriots or Cardinals comes down to whether his players make good decisions by then.
“We are going to prepare to win a championship as we know how to do,” said the coach. “And that’s with good hard practice and taking care of the little details.”
Thomas unloaded 99 pitches and 11 strikeouts on the Cardinals in 5⅔ innings, holding Calvert Hall to six hits. It happened after a tough first run.
“I knew I had to connect, start focusing on trying to get more strikes, see if I could get out of the inning,” Thomas said. “What I have done.”
After Thomas ran off, he resumed his command. The Spalding right-hander hit the next two Cardinals and sent the third flying toward center field.
Then he used it.
Thomas hammered the first pitch he saw from Cardinals starter Ryan Siefert for a three-run homer that sailed somewhere in the woods behind Spalding’s 340-foot fence.
The Riders exited the dugout, squealing with delight as two other riders and Thomas ran through the house.
“With his level of preparation, I think he dug deep there and probably used some of that experience from last year to stay calm and get some big first-inning outs to get us back on track,” Palumbo said. “And getting three runs on a home run showed a lot of maturity and a lot of growth.”
Calvert Hall tried to respond in the second, but Spalding had fire in his veins. Thomas knocked out Brendan Kastanaras, a potential tying run, at first base. He closed the inning with a strikeout.
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But Calvert Hall was not shaken. Lamar King’s hit slid past third base and went deep into the outfield, scoring a goal and cutting the deficit to 3-2.
But Spalding senior Eddie Sargent (2 for 3) scored on an errant throw on an out attempt, pushing back the lead to 4-2.
Now the cardinals were really mute. Calvert Hall passed the fourth run quietly; Spalding did not.
Spalding junior Ethan McNally hit a solo home run over the wall to left center to throw a profitable frame for the Cavaliers.
Tyler Smith (2 for 3), crushed a pitch to right field for a three-run homer, making it 7-2.
That’s when Thomas reached another level. The trick, he said, was to stop attacking Cardinals hitters to death. The ace delivered four straight strikeouts, eventually giving up the ball to his coach at 99 pitches and to loud applause. Senior Zach Ford took the mound afterward, stopping two Cardinals at home plate and limiting them to one hit.
“As the game went on I got better,” Thomas said. “I followed my game plan: go out there, do my best and give my team the best chance to win.”