In his 38 years coaching in the Mount St. Joseph baseball program, head coach Dave Norton’s Gaels have never played against public school neighbor Catonsville.
Until Saturday morning in the opening game of the 30th annual Jack Conley Lead-Off Baseball Tournament at Mount St. Joe.
The two hooked up in a brunch delight that featured outstanding pitching and some ropes off the bat.
The Gaels won, 9-3, behind the dominant pitching performance of Mount St. Joe junior Peter Solomon.
Solomon, an early commitment to the University of Notre Dame, struck out 12 batters, including the first six Comets and eight of the first nine.
He also went 2-for-2 at the plate with a pair of walks.
“I was trying to establish my fastball early and just get ahead because I knew we needed a big win today to get our mojo back up,” said the Ellicott City resident who was familiar with Comet junior starting pitcher JD Klein.
“I ‘ve played against him since I was eight years old,” Solomon said. “I’ve battled him a couple times and he has got the best of us and sometimes we’ve got the best of him.”
Klein (2-for-3) did get the best of Solomon once — when he blasted a towering opposite-field home run to left field to pull the Comets within two runs, 4-2, in the top of the fourth inning.
“He got me. It was a 3-2 count and I was thinking fastball, but I went with my coach and left it up in the zone and he got a good piece of the bat on it.”
Klein retired the Gaels in order in the bottom of the fourth and it looked like they might be poised for a comeback.
Catonsville shortstop Joey Getzendanner (1-for-2) was hit by the pitch and to lead off the fifth, but Solomon bore down and fanned the next two hitters, before getting Rob Wheelton on a fly out that stranded Getzendanner on third.
“That was the key thing, to settle down and keep the game under control and that is what he did,” Norton said.
Klein and the Comets unraveled in the fifth inning when the Gaels scored five runs on six hits and a Comet error.
“We definitely felt when it was 4-2 we needed to get some runs so we got a little rally going and that was good to get some of those insurance runs to feel more safe,” Solomon said.
Josh Beglan (2-for-4), Solomon and Sam Rowan (2-for-4, 3 RBIs) led off the inning with consecutive doubles and Catonsville resident Peter Crawford followed with an RBI single, before another Catonsville resident, Clark Clatchey, produced another run when he reached on an error.
Matt Sniezak’s two-run double closed the Gael scoring.
“We’ve got some pop in the lineup and that has been developing,” Norton said. “Kids like Solomon, Rowan and Crawford are stinging the ball.”
The Gaels manufactured a run in the first inning without a hit as they took advantage of an error, walk and wild pitch.
Catonsville tied it in the top of the third when Getzendanner led off with a single and scored on Ryan Whittington’s double to left center.
St. Joe took the lead for good in the bottom of the third.
Beglan and Rowan sandwiched doubles around Soloman’s walk and all three Gaels scored with Crawford driving in the final run.
“When you play a team this good, you have to play a perfect game to be in it.” Catonsville coach Rich Hambor said.
But, the coach was happy to play the neighborhood private school for the first time in at least 38 years.
“We’ll come over any time,” Hambor said. “If they want us to come back we’ll keep coming back.”
“It’s good for the community,” he said.
It was also nice for Solomon to face a familiar foe.
“It’s definitely good to play teams we normally wouldn’t that aren’t in our conference to see how we match up,” he said.
Since Cardinal Gibbons closed down, the natural sports rivalry in the community has been lost, but on the unusually nice spring morning, alumni from Cardinal Gibbons, Mount St, Joe and Catonsville turned out and relived stories of their glory days on the local diamonds.
“We had tried for a long, long time to get them in this tournament and for one reason or another they just couldn’t make it and this year when they accepted I was delighted and they’ve got a good team,” Norton said. “They’ve got some good bats and the Klein boy has a nice arm and they play good defense. “I’m sure they will do well in their league.”
The Comets were 2-0, with wins over Lansdowne and Western Tech, before the loss to St. Joe.
The Gaels improved to 4-4 overall.