Calvert Hall baseball coach Lou Eckerl expected junior right-hander Manny Rodriguez to be effective when he put him in the starting rotation late in the season. But this good?
Rodriguez gave up two hits, no runs and struck out seven in six innings to lead the No. 1 Cardinals to a 7-0 victory over No. 2 Gilman Sunday in the first final of the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference double-elimination tournament at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen.
Calvert Hall (23-8) will face the Greyhounds at the same site Monday at 5:30 p.m., and Rodriguez could pitch out of the bullpen if needed.
“He started out the season as a relief pitcher,” Eckerl said. “We saw he was doing so well, we groomed him to be a starter. We took our time with him and kept adding innings until we felt he was ready to start.”
Calvert Hall roughed up two Gilman pitchers for 12 hits. Rodriguez’s brother Richard, a senior shortstop and Delaware State recruit, doubled twice, singled, scored three times and drove in two runs. Robbie Jones and Zach Rowe each had two hits.
Gilman senior left-hander Gavin Sheets retired the first seven batters before Richard Rodriguez and Manny Rodriguez hit back-to-back singles in the top of the third inning. After Sheets fanned Troy Stokes, Zach Rowe laced a single to right field to score Richard Rodriguez to make it 1-0.
Calvert Hall pushed its lead to 4-0 in the fifth.
Richard Rodriguez led off with a double to the right-center field gap and Manny Rodriguez sacrificed him to third. Rodriguez scored when Stokes looped a single over the shortstop with the Greyhounds playing a drawn-in infield. Stokes went to second on a wild pitch, stole third and scored on Alex Murphy’s sacrifice fly to left field. Rowe scored the final run, stealing home when Sheets threw over to first base.
Manny Rodriguez retired 10 of the first 11 batters before Gilman (25-11) loaded the bases with two outs in the fifth on a pair of singles and a walk. But Rodriguez wiggled out of the jam by getting Danny Blair to ground out to second.
“We had seven strikeouts?” Gilman coach Larry Sheets asked. “It seemed like a lot more than that. He was certainly hitting his spots. We didn’t get good swings on him.”
The Cardinals added three runs in the sixth to chase Sheets (9-2, 2.70 ERA), who gave up five earned runs on seven hits in 5 1/3 innings. He struck out three and walked one. Richard Rodriguez highlighted the inning with a run-scoring double.
“The other game we played against them, we were a little tight for whatever reason,” Eckerl said of the 3-2 loss Wednesday to Gilman in the tournament’s second round. “We were pressing too much. We didn’t hit. Today, we relaxed and played much better.”
Calvert Hall 7 Gilman 0
Gilman 0000000 – 0 2 2
Calvert Hall 0010330 — 7 12 0
Sheets, Gallagher and Slodzinski; Rodriguez, Deaver and Murphy. 2B: CH — R Rodriguez (2)