Calvert Hall senior Brian Matz will be the first to admit he had problems kicking the dust from his cleats at the beginning of the baseball season -- and with good reason.
In addition to an overlap from a successful basketball campaign, in which he averaged 10 points and three assists as a small forward, the All-Metro left-hander was moved from first base -- where he was the best in the Maryland Scholastic Association's A Conference -- to the outfield.
And because of a blizzard in March, followed by several days of rain, he had few opportunities to shake the rust from his throwing arm.
"Because of those things, we didn't want to rush him," said coach Joe Binder, whose Cardinals (13-2, 7-2) won four straight MSA A crowns before last year's runner-up finish to McDonogh.
But for opponents who were hoping to catch Matz while he's down, it's too late. Matz has moved from the sixth to the fourth spot in the batting order and raised his batting average to .361, with nine RBI, 11 runs scored and five walks in the past five games.
Going into the weekend Matz had two home runs, a triple, two doublesand five steals. His statistics pale in comparison to last year, when he hit .444 with 30 RBI, "but I'm not trying to match that," Matz said.
But at 4-0 on the mound with 57 strikeouts in 33 2/3 innings and just 19 walks, Matz is on pace to surpass last year's effort, when he had 79 strikeouts in 62 2/3 innings and an 8-2 record.
Opponents know they can't steal on Matz, Binder said, because of the pitcher's quickness to first base.
"It's been an adjustment, but I'll do anything for the team," said Matz, a 6-foot-1, 185-pounder who will play for 10-time Atlantic Coast Conference champion Clemson next spring.
Matz's resurgence is bad news for opponents, because the Cardinals have two more bona-fide starters in junior Jason Reinhart (6-1) and sophomore left-hander Andy Bair (1-0), a 6-4, 240-pounder.
"We go six pitchers deep with a couple of guys up from the JV, which was the MSA champ, so that took some pressure off of me," said Matz, 18, who has a 3.3 grade-point average. "And after a slow start, I'm seeing the ball better and hitting more solidly. Everything seems to be coming around."
He'll get no argument from Curley and fifth-ranked Mount St. Joseph, two opponents who saw the best of Matz, both on the mound and at the plate.
Matz's 91-pitch, complete-game no-hitter in Wednesday's 6-0 victory over Curley included 11 strikeouts and two walks.
Matz, who went 2-for-3 at the plate with an RBI and two stolen bases, had a perfect game for 4 1/3 innings until an error allowed the first runner on base.
"He had two nine-pitch innings and really didn't have to work that hard," Binder said of Matz, whose four-pitch arsenal consists of a fastball, a slider, a change and a curve.
"He's still not fully confident in throwing his changeup for strikes, but it'll come around," Binder said. "As long as he throws strikes, we know that the defense will help him out. That's the frame of mind we'd like to keep him in."
Mount St. Joseph players tried to break Matz's spirit by taunting him in the early going last Friday's 11-3 Cardinals victory.
Matz answered with nine strikeouts and three walks, helping himself with a third-inning, 355-foot, opposite-field home run that tied the score at 3. He also doubled.
"I really think Brian's starting to swing the bat well for us. He's very competitive, pressing himself to perfection," Binder said. "The warmer the weather gets, the easier it's going to be for him to get those breaking pitches over."