A collective target remains on Gerstell’s varsity baseball program given its 2019 Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association’s B Conference championship.
More than 20 months have passed since the Falcons won their title, and they’re still the reigning champions after the 2020 season was wiped out because of the COVID-19 pandemic. A few holdovers remain from that squad, but change is evident along coach Cap Poklemba’s roster.
And opponents want to seize the moment by posting a win against the champs, which is what St. Paul’s did Monday in an 11-3 victory.
“The last time we played, we were very, very young ... we had a lot of freshmen,” Poklemba said. “And we’re back in that same thing this year. We’re starting a lot of freshmen.”
Three ninth-graders started Monday, and Gerstell has seven on its roster. The Falcons (0-2) posted a 17-7 record in the 2019 season, led by Times Player of the Year Reece Early. The all-MIAA standout helped Gerstell take down Boys’ Latin twice in two days to claim the B Conference crown.
Early graduated that spring and headed to Navy, leaving a void the Falcons are seeking to replace.
Poklemba said his lineup is taking too many pitches early in the season. St. Paul’s struck out 10 batters Monday, while its offense pounced on Gerstell pitching early.
Cameron Nelson had four hits for the Crusaders (4-1), and Hayden Hair ripped a grand slam to left field with two outs in the fourth that gave the visiting team a 9-3 lead. Charles Konkolics added two doubles and scored three runs.
Graham Vaeth, one of two seniors for Gerstell, said he and his teammates know they are marked this spring as the team to beat even with a host of new players and untapped chemistry.
“It wasn’t perfect today, nor was it in our last [game], but that’s something we’re working on in practice,” said Vaeth, whose team fell 2-0 to CHEN in its season opener last Friday. “It’s not a one-, two-man team. We have to all take a part in helping [the underclassmen]. Making sure they know, because they’re not experienced in high school baseball.”
Tyler Stuck, a junior and like Vaeth a returner from the 2019 championship team, belted a double in the seventh inning. John Delgado, a sophomore who came on to pitch in relief, also had a double and scored a run.
Landon Bell, one of those three starting freshmen, reached base three times. But Gerstell fell behind early and left 10 runners on base.
“We’re going to have to grow up real quick,” said Poklemba, whose Falcons get St. Maria Goretti on Wednesday at home. “Some of these 14-year-old kids haven’t seen [B Conference talent] before. We need to be aggressive at the plate.”