Junior Matthew Nowakowski turned in another solid pitching performance and Gerstell's hitters came to life in a 13-7 victory over visiting Saints Peter & Paul in a Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association C Conference semifinal Tuesday.
Nowakowski, a right-hander, struck out seven, walked two and allowed six hits and two earned runs to improve to 4-1. The Falcons (16-4) exploded for six runs in the fourth inning off of Sabres ace Connor Quade, and they added four more runs in the sixth.
A solid combination of hitting and pitching moved Gerstell into Thursday's championship game at St. Paul's School in Brooklandville against St. John's Catholic Prep of Frederick.
"It never hurts going into a championship after busting out 17 hits in a game," said coach Cap Poklemba, whose Falcons split with St. John's during the regular season. "They came off their two best pitchers. With that kind of hitting, I like our chances in the championship if we can play defense and throw strikes."
Three Gerstell hitters, Chris Hagan, Matthew Szedlock and Brennan Sedney, each had three base hits. Hagan collected three RBIs and Sedney had two.
The Falcons had to rally, however.
The Sabres (13-8) scored three runs in the first and Brooks Hoffman highlighted the inning with a two-run single. Those runs came off of starter Reece Early, a sophomore right-hander who Poklemba used for only an inning. He just wanted to get him some work, the coach said.
"We have been off for about a week," Poklemba said. "We haven't had guys throw. So if we made it to Thursday, Reece would start then. We wanted to give him a bullpen [workout] and he was on a 25-pitch limit. The plan was to go to Nowakowski afterwards."
Nowakowski, who boasts a 1.06 ERA, struck out two batters in the second and gave up a run in the third before throwing two scoreless innings.
Gerstell cut the lead to 4-1 in the third on Hagan's single to right field, which scored Early, who moved to right field. The Falcons took the lead for good in the fourth and went ahead 7-4.
They sent 10 batters to the plate, and both Hagan, a freshman second baseman, and Blake Bissen rapped two-run singles.
"We have been hitting the ball well lately," Poklemba said. "I knew it was just a matter of time. We got a couple of big hits and the flood gates opened."
Gerstell, which lost to the Sabres, 3-1, at home May 1, put the game out of reach in the sixth. Sedney keyed the inning with a two-run double.
The Falcons advance to try and defeat St. John's Catholic Prep for a second time this spring. Gerstell won 6-3 on April 29 in Finksburg, but the Vikings prevailed 4-0 two days earlier. St. John's finished 14-1 in MIAA C play and placed first in the standings after the regular season, but Gerstell was close behind at 14-2.
"They are strong from hitters one to nine," Saints Peter & Paul coach Chris Thompson said of the Falcons. "They can all hit and they just have to put the ball in play."
Gerstell 001 6060 — 13 17 2
Saints Peter & Paul 301 0012— 7 9 4
G-Reece Early, Matthew Nowakowski (2) and Taylor Hodges; SPP-Connor Quade, James Hastings (6) and Brooks Hoffman. 2B: G-Chris Hagan, Brennan Sedney. WP: Nowakowski. LP: Quade.