St. Vincent Pallotti has been to the playoffs 12 straight years under coach Pat Courtemanche, but a 13th straight appearance seems gloomy after a 5-3 conference loss at Boys’ Latin on Thursday.
The Panthers (5-5 overall, 2-5 Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B conference) battled tough against Lakers' senior pitcher Fred Bopst early, taking a 1-0 lead in the first inning.
But Pallotti's leftfielder tripped tracking a flyball in the bottom of the third, which allowed two runs in the three-run inning, and gave Boys' Latin a 5-1 lead it would not relinquish.
"We still have plenty of time, but we just need to start taking care of every advantage," Courtemanche said. "(Making the playoffs) is our goal this year. Our record may not dictate it right now, but we've got to start taking it one game at a time."
Bopst admittedly didn't have his best stuff on the mound for the Lakers. The two-time all-MIAA B conference pitcher walked three batters in the first allowing a run on a passed ball. He struck out the side, getting his last out with the bases loaded, to get out of the jam.
"(Bopst) said he was a little tired coming into the game," said fourth-year Boys' Latin coach Bill Greenwell. "He didn't have his 'A' stuff, but he battled there and good pitchers get batters out when they don't have their 'A' game."
The Lakers (3-2 overall, 2-2 MIAA B conference) took a 2-1 lead in the top of the second when senior catcher Parker Yablon hit a two-run home run to right field against Panthers senior pitcher Ryan Centorbi. Greenwell said it is Yablon's first home run ever at Paul Iglehart Baseball Field and the first at home this season for any Boys' Latin player.
"(Yablon) almost broke my hand when he came around to slap me," Greenwell said.
The Panthers made a late rally and scored two runs in the sixth inning to cut the Laker lead to 5-3. Boys' Latin pitcher Liam Madden, who took over for Bopst in the fifth inning, walked the first three batters to load the bases. He struck out sophomore pinch-hitter Isaiah Obasanjo looking, but sophomore Zavier McDuffie hit a sacrifice fly to right field to score junior Colin Burns.
Centorbi singled to drive in senior Joe Edokpayi for the third run of the game, but the Panthers made a costly error in the next at-bat. Centorbi ran to steal second, but Yablon instead threw the ball to the pitcher, who was able to catch senior Brandon Goodwyn off the base at third for the final out of the inning with Pallotti's number-two hitter at-bat.
"The goal was to get in a run-down and the catcher made a good fake," Courtemanche said. "It hurts, but we put ourselves in position to tie it if not take the lead."
The Lakers have eight games in a 13-day stretch after being rained out of several games early in the season. Greenwell hopes his team's pitching depth can help carry the team through the tough stretch.
Courtemanche is confident his team can turn the early struggles around by playing better defense and getting timely hitting.
"We haven't played our best game yet," he said. "We've been in it with everyone except Glenelg Country and we know when we get there and play our best game we'll be in the run for the playoffs."