If St. Vincent Pallotti were going to have its streak halted for making the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference baseball playoffs, this was supposed to be the year.
It seemed like a rebuilding season with a capital "R." And that's what is making this season's accomplishments -- and a 12th straight season qualifying for the playoffs -- even more special.
The initial outlook made sense, considering the Panthers returned only three starters — senior infielder/outfielder Ramon Braulio, sophomore second baseman Nico Marchetti and senior outfielder Noah Martin — and graduated its entire pitching staff from last year's team that went 20-11 and reached the conference final against eventual champion Annapolis Area Christian School.
"I was thinking deep down inside this year, we may not make the playoffs," said Pallotti coach Pat Courtemanche, whose team won titles in 2005 and 2006.
Despite the lack of optimism early, Pallotti has the third-best record (8-3) in the 11-team conference and a 12-5 overall record.
"I can say I am very surprised," Courtemanche said of the team's success. "I think regardless of what happens in the playoffs, I am very satisfied with how well we have played. I think it's probably been my most rewarding season in 12 years."
Pallotti is having a stellar season with a young pitching staff led by freshman right-hander Robert Colvin, the team's ace, and the right-handed Marchetti as the No. 2 starter.
The 6-foot-2 Colvin, who also plays tight end and defensive end on the football team, is 4-2 with 41 strikeouts in 33 innings. He has given up 23 hits and has a 4.32 ERA.
"Robert is just overpowering and dominant," Courtemanche said. "When I found out Robert was coming to Pallotti, I asked him if he would be comfortable being our No. 1 pitcher. He said he would be fine. I have pitched him in every big game we have had, and he has showed a lot of composure."
Marchetti is also 4-2 and has struck out 35 in 29 innings while allowing 19 hits and posting a 3.94 ERA.
"Nico doesn't throw exceptionally fast," Courtemanche said. "He has found out in high school baseball, it's all about location. He hits the corner and mixes his curveball in."
Courtemanche said junior right-hander Ryan Centorbi, who transferred from Lansdowne High last year, will be the team's No. 3 starter for the remainder of the season.
Centrobi won two games last week, picking up the victory in relief in a 9-8 win over Our Lady of Mount Carmel. He threw four innings, gave up three hits, one earned run and struck out five. Centrobi also beat Boys' Latin, tossing a solid 5 2/3 innings in a 7-3 triumph.
The Panthers will use Braulio and sophomore Colin Burns to round out the staff.
The offensive support is also there. As a team, Pallotti is batting .327. Coley O'Brien (.437), Martin (.419), Colin (.392, 19 RBIs), Marchetti (.375), Burns (.325) and Chris Edelen (13 RBIs) are the leading hitters.
"We are a line-drive-hitting team, and we are aggressive on the bases," Courtemanche said.
The Panthers can't wait for the postseason to start. They have won four league games in a row with three remaining on the schedule.
"I think we can make a run in the playoffs," Cortemanche said.