The third-ranked Calvert Hall baseball team entered yesterday's regular-season finale against No. 2 McDonogh hoping to preserve home-field advantage for tomorrow's Maryland Scholastic Association A Conference playoff opener.
But the Cardinals' 9-0 win over the visiting Eagles -- their first in four tries this season -- accomplished something far bigger.
It gave Calvert Hall a giant confidence boost heading into the postseason.
"Any game like this is really a confidence builder, but especially against McDonogh," said Calvert Hall starter Jason Reinhart, who went the distance, giving up four hits.
Reinhart used a mix of fastballs and curves to quiet the Eagles' nTC bats,handing them their second conference loss and ending their 11-game winning streak.
Calvert Hall (17-3, 10-2) had to win to ensure the No. 2 seed and home-field advantage in the playoffs.
"There was a lot of pressure on us," Cardinals coach Joe Binder said. "We didn't want to lose home-field advantage. McDonogh's been hard on us this year, and I think this was a very important win."
The A Conference playoff tournament starts tomorrow, with the top-seeded Eagles (12-3, 12-2) playing host to fourth-seeded Loyola, and the Cardinals playing host to third-seeded Mount St. Joseph.
The winners and losers of those games will meet Friday in the double-elimination tournament.
With Cardinals ace Brian Matz and McDonogh ace Kenny Cloude playing in the field (both are expected to pitch tomorrow or Friday), Reinhart and seldom-used Richie Levin started.
While Reinhart (8-2) flourished, Levin struggled, giving up nine runs, eight earned, in six innings.
The Cardinals' big inning was the third. Leading 1-0, they sent 11 men to the plate and scored seven to blow the game open.
Tim Pilarski and Josh Itzoe opened the inning with walks, and Paul Barabasz followed by reaching on an error to load the bases. Larry Marino singled to left, scoring Pilarski, and Matz singled to right, scoring two more to make it 4-0.
When Jason Dean and Adam Roberts added RBI singles, the rout was on.