As successful as top-ranked Calvert Hall has been this year, the Cardinals found themselves four outs from elimination Friday. That circumstance evidently didn't sit well with Jose Torres and Garrett Matheny.
The pair combined to drive in five runs in the sixth to erase a one-run deficit and defeat visiting Archbishop Spalding, 7-5, in a wild Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference playoff elimination game.
Calvert Hall (26-3) advances to face archrival Loyola Blakefield Sundaty at 4 p.m. at Harford Community College. If the Cardinals win that game, they will play Loyola again Monday at Harford Community College for the league title.
The loss ends a three-year run as A Conference Champions for the third-ranked Cavaliers (21-8).
"I felt like we were always within striking distance," Calvert Hall coach Lou Eckerl said. "We just needed that one big break to go our way. Thankfully for us, Jose and Garrett provided that for us."
Spalding led, 3-2, entering the bottom of the sixth. Calvert Hall had one out and Michael Poling on first base when Spalding coach Joe Palumbo chose to replace pitcher Spencer Sherman with Jordan Geber. After Geber got the Cardinals' Justin Kerr to pop up for the second out, Calvert Hall went to work.
Geber walked Brendan Webster, forcing Poling to second. That brought up Torres. During his at-bat, Geber bounced a pitch, which got past Cavaliers catcher Jack Triolo, and moved both Webster and Poling up one base.
Torres, who was patient, got the pitch he was looking for and doubled down the left-field line past diving Spalding third baseman Nick Vermillion. The double scored both Poling and Webster, and gave Calvert Hall a 4-3 lead.
After an intentional walk put Torres on second and Joseph Murphy on first, Calvert Hall catcher Matheny crushed a homer down the right-field line to make the score 7-3 after six.
Spalding was in no mood to surrender. The Cavaliers got the leadoff hitter, Alex Green, on with a single off Calvert Hall reliever Matt Hentschel, before Justin Caesar hit a home run to left-center field to make the score 7-5. Hentschel settled down after that, inducing a popup and two strikeouts to close out the win.
"When you're growing up, you dream of getting a hit like that in a situation like that," Torres said. "I was just sitting back waiting for my pitch, and I got it. He threw me a fastball low and inside, and I drove it down the line."
Palumbo was disappointed, but complimented the efforts of both teams.
"It was a great high school baseball game between two great teams," Palumbo said. "They're all that way in this league. That's why it's one of the best in the country. I knew the game would come down to one or two guys making a play late, and unfortunately that made the difference."
For Calvert Hall, the quest for a title continues. If you listen to Matheny, the Cardinals will be ready.
"They kind of snuck up on us a little in the first game [of the playoffs]," Matheny said. "I had a feeling even then that we'd see them in the championship. We've been waiting for an opportunity like this."
MIAA A Conference
Calvert Hall 7, Archbishop Spalding 5
AS 030 000 2 -- 5 4 0
CH 100 105 x -- 7 10 1
Caesar, Sherman (5), Geber (6) and Triolo; Maher, Hentschel (6) and Matheny. HR: AS – Caesar; CH – Murphy, Matheny. 2B: AS – Green; CH – Nieto, Torres.