Mount St. Joseph junior center fielder Clark Clatchey picked the perfect time to bust out of a hitting slump and hit his second home run of the season.
Playing in front of former teammates and coaches, the Catonsville resident belted a two-run home run in the fourth inning to break open a tight game and propel the Gaels (8-9) to an 11-3 victory over Catonsville (4-4) in the first game of the Jack Conley Tournament Saturday.
Clatchey (2-for-4) lined a fastball over the fence between the 342- and 370-foot signs in right-center field, giving the Gaels a 7-3 lead in the bottom of the third.
“I didn’t know that one was out, so I was kind of sprinting on it,” said Clatchey, whose first home run this season was a rocket launched high over the flag pole in deep center.
Clatchey hit his second homer off Catonsville ace JD Klein, who allowed eight runs (seven earned) in 3 1/3 innings.
Two batters later, Ed Nottingham greeted new pitcher James O’Toole with another two-run clout to extend the lead.
“I’ve been talking to these guys all year, when you get in a position to extend that lead, it changes the dynamic and the tone of the game and it certainly did then,” St. Joe coach Jody Harris said. “We had to stretch it out.”
Clatchey, who normally bats third in the lineup, moved to the leadoff spot despite recent struggles at the plate. He led off the first inning with a double.
“It wasn’t a question of me not having confidence in our guys, it was just a question of let’s do something a little bit different, give a different look, a different approach, and you saw what happened there,” Harris said.
Clatchey enjoyed setting the tone.
“I’ve been struggling a little bit, so it (batting first) was different, but I guess it worked,” he said.
The Gaels pounded out 12 hits against three Comet pitchers.
They scored five runs in the bottom of the second inning to take a 5-1 lead, after Catonsville senior Joey Getzendanner had given the Comets a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning with a two-out double that drove home Scott Beautz.
A leadoff double by Sam Rowan, run scoring singles by CJ Palting (2-for-2) and Matt Sniezek, and a two-run triple by Andre Brown keyed the Gaels’ uprising.
Catonsville made it 5-2 in the third on Klein’s RBI double.
Klein set down the side in order in the bottom of the inning and the Comets crept closer in the fourth.
Anthony Pehr drilled a one-out double and scored on pinch hitter Lee Wolfe’s two-out single up the middle.
Wolfe advanced to third and Spencer Singh reached second after Singh’s single was compounded by an outfield error.
Wolfe and Singh were both former teammates of Clatchey's with the Baltimore Chop.
With the tying run on second and the Gaels clinging to 5-3 lead, sophomore hurler Zach Stoll wriggled free of the jam when he got pesky leadoff hitter Ryan Whittington out on a chopper to third.
“We were right there,” said Catonsville coach Rich Hambor after having Stoll on the ropes.
Stoll settled in and retired seven of the next eight hitters and the game was halted after six innings because of a time limit.
Harris, in his first season as St. Joe head coach after 26 years as the assistant coach, was happy to get the bats rolling against the school in the town where the St. Joe alumnus grew up.
“I tell these guys, you may not know because you haven’t been around that long, but I know from my experience, that Catonsville is a big game because we are competing for the same kids at the same level, so it was nice to get a win,” Harris said.
He was also pleased to see the bats come alive.
“This is a nice thing to see,” he said. ‘We’ve been struggling to score runs and to be able to put a couple up there on the board and make the guys feel good at the plate, that is going to be important for us in the second half.”
Catonsville’s Hambor was happy to work some of the rust off and get more players on the field after the holiday break.
“We have 11 games in the next two weeks, so we are just trying to get playoff seeding, so this is a good way to get the second half started,” said Hambor, whose squad’s only losses in the past five games were to private schools St. Joe and Archbishop Curley. “I like our team. We are really coming together well.”