BEL AIR — Gerstell’s baseball team came up big in a had-to-have-it situation.
The Falcons needed a win Monday afternoon against Boys’ Latin, which had three prior lopsided victories against them this spring, to stay alive in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association’s B Conference championship. They got it by collecting several huge hits — and leaning on the right arm of Reece Early.
Gerstell’s senior struck out 12 batters in a complete-game effort and helped the Falcons win 6-3 to force a winner-take-all title game Tuesday back at Harford Community College.
Boys’ Latin outscored Gerstell by a combined 45-9 in their three previous meetings, the third of which came last Wednesday in the double-elimination tournament (a 14-4 win). The Lakers (19-6) were averaging close to 10 runs per game this season before Early bottled them up in his team’s biggest game of the year.
“Our mindset was definitely to keep our composure,” said Early, who allowed seven hits and three unearned runs. “We had to throw strikes and play defense, because that’s what is going to win us ballgames.”
The Falcons (16-7) did Early one better by clubbing six extra-base hits, one game after racking up a season-high 15 hits (seven for extra bases) in knocking out top-seeded Glenelg Country School from the tourney and downing the Dragons for a second time in the playoffs.
They turned a 3-2 deficit into a 5-3 lead in the fifth inning Monday — Early tied the game with a solo home run to left-center, and Tyler Stuck put Gerstell ahead with a two-run triple into center field. Stuck had two triples and three RBIs, Early had two hits, and catcher Chris Hagan reached base three times and added an RBI.
Stuck said Gerstell’s offense is coming together at the right time of the year.
“You’ve got to focus on being in the moment,” the freshman said.
Boys’ Latin erased a 2-0 deficit in the third when Grace drove in two runs with a single and Charlie Godin added an RBI hit. Gerstell cost itself with a botched double-play chance that would have cleared the bases, and a BL runner later advanced on an error in the outfield.
Lakers starter Liam Karey had a one-run lead in the fifth, but it didn’t last — Early opened the frame with his homer, Hagan walked, and Logan Satti doubled down the left-field line. Stuck, whose triple in the third inning rolled into the gap in right-center despite barely getting off the ground, connected for another three-bagger when BL’s Josh Butler made a diving attempt in center but came up short and the ball got behind him.
Max Friedman’s lead-off double in the sixth paid off when Hagan brought him home three batters later thanks to a fly out.
Early didn’t need the extra run, as it turned out. He was in control, save for two hit batters in the sixth and a one-out double from Grace in the seventh.
“You take that one inning out where we made a couple bonehead errors, it’s not even that close of a game,” said Gerstell coach Cap Poklemba. “We’ve just got to do the same thing [Tuesday] night, come out and hit the baseball and we’ll be fine.”
Poklemba has five freshmen on his roster, and four of them started Monday’s game. Add shortstop Graham Vaeth, a sophomore and a regular, and the Falcons possess a youthful energy mixed with a little inexperience. But their coach calls it a positive — going up against the three-time reigning B Conference champs didn’t seem to faze the young bunch.
Early said this team didn’t get this far just to represent.
“We’re going for a championship, that’s what we’re thinking about,” he said. “Nothing else on our minds.”
Gerstell 101 3 10 0 — 6 11 2
Boys’ Latin 003 000 0 — 3 7 1
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G-Reece Early and Chris Hagan; BL-Liam Karey, Ian McAslan (6) and Sam Grace. 2B: G-Logan Satti Elias Rimel; BL-Grace. 3B: G-Tyler Stuck 2, Max Friedman. HR; G-Early. WP: Early. LP: Karey.