Mount St. Joseph junior Ethan Gallagher couldn't have delivered a better opening statement to the friends he grew up playing sports with in Catonsville.
In his first at bat, the Catonsville resident hit a long solo home run to straightway center field giving the Gaels (5-1) a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning against the host Comets (0-1) in their opener on Tuesday afternoon.
The round-tripper set the tone for an offensive explosion as the Gaels prevailed 13-6 in the first regular-season meeting between the teams in at least 40 years. They have met in tournaments.
"Growing up with a bunch of these kids, it felt really good to come to the plate and in the third pitch of the at bat to go yard to center field," Gallagher said.
The homer came on a perfect hitter's count.
"It was a 2-0 count, so if it was a fast ball I was right there, if it was a curve ball I was going to take anyway and he fed me a fast ball and I hit it," Gallagher said.
Mount St. Joe coach Jody Harris, who lived in Catonsville and played for the Gaels until he graduated in 1979, wasn't surprised to see him produce.
"Ethan is the kind of player who has got raw power and you make a mistake and he's going to make you pay for it," Harris said.
Catonsville coach Rich Hambor was aware the hometown kid was dangerous.
"He's a great player," Hambor said. "You are going to play against some of the best players."
Gael senior Jake Wyandt third baseman could be one of those top players.
He went 3-for-5 with 5 RBIS.
His first two RBIs came on a two-out double in the top of the third inning that extended the Gaels lead to 8-1.
He final three came on a three-run home run in the top of the seventh inning that extended a 10-6 lead to 13-6.
"I saw Sean Zaranski on second base and I was just trying to hit him in and get a couple extra insurance runs," Wyandt said.
Wyandt missed the four games on the Gaels trip to Myrtle Beach to start the season because he was playing for the basketball team in the Alhambra Tournament, but he showed he is rounding into form.
"I had to re-adjust my timing and get back in the swing of things, but it's just like riding a bike, it comes back pretty easy, but it definitely took a little bit longer," Wyandt said.
Harris was waiting for the offensive firepower from Wyandt.
"Jake Wyandt is just kind of winding himself into baseball shape after playing basketball and he hasn't had that many at bats and I was real pleased to see him put some serious wood on the ball and justify his position in the middle of the lineup," Harris said.
In between the two home runs there were several errors and walk and both squads contributed.
The Gaels capitalized on four Comet errors in the first three innings and built an 8-2 lead.
It didn't justify the way Catonsville starter Jake Parrott threw the ball.
"He wasn't letting it get to him, but it's hard to go out there and have to get six outs in an inning," Hambor said.
Nick Caporlette (2-for-4) had an RBI double in the first and Paul Kaschak and Jack Stilling (3-for-4) had RBIs in the first three innings off Parrott.
"I kept telling them you've got to grind it out," Harris said. "Our motto is get to five and get ahead by five and we've haven't been doing that, we've been holding on and winning."
They almost had to do that again.
After Luke Hess scored Stilling, the Gaels led 9-2 in the middle of the fourth, but the Comets came roaring back, fueled by a sliding catch of a foul pop by first baseman Jack Harrell.
After Gael starter Connor Feustle exited (3 IP, 4 hits, 2 earned runs), the Comets coaxed five walks in the bottom of the fourth off reliever Jake Howell and cut the lead to 9-4.
Reliever Sean Moran came into face Danny Terzi (2-for-4) and he promptly drilled a two-run double down the left-field line to make it 9-6.
"Terzi had a great game. He was coming on strong at the end of last year," Hambor said. "We are going to depend on him a whole lot on the mound and at the plate. It's a great start for him."
Moran got out of the jam with no further damage when Eric Sheppard (1-for-4, RBI) popped out and Kevin Deitz fanned.
The Gaels added a run off reliever Terzi in the top of the sixth on a ground single by Caporlette to make it 10-6.
Terzi had held the Gaels to two runs on four hits with three strikeouts in three innings, but the Comets never scored again and Wyandt provided the insurance in the seventh inning.
St. Joe reliever Nick Worthington didn't allow a hit in the final two innings to preserve the victory.
Despite the loss, Catonsville coach Hambor was happy to play the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference neighbors in a meaningful regular-season game.
"I was glad to play them. We will go out there and play them next year again and just keep going," he said.
Harris said it was special to return to his old stomping grounds.
"Most of my high school friends are from Catonsville and I don't know if it's bragging rights, but at least for another year I get to talk about the win," Harris said.
Gallagher will add some home run talk to the victory jabber with the friends from his youth.