The way Dave McCann sees it, there's not a whole lot separating his unranked Loyola baseball team from No. 2 McDonogh.
In yesterday's opening round of the Maryland Scholastic Association A Conference playoffs, two critical errors by the fourth-seeded Dons gave the top-seeded Eagles a 5-2 victory and some breathing room in the double-elimination tournament.
The Dons (8-8) will try to stay alive when they travel to higher-seeded Mount St. Joseph today at 3:45 p.m. Meanwhile, second-seeded Calvert Hall, which defeated the Gaels, 2-0, will meet McDonogh today at 3:45 in a battle between the first-round winners.
"We made the mistakes and they didn't," said McCann, whose team split two games with McDonogh during the regular season. "There wasn't anything loud hit anywhere, but the name of the game is unearned runs, and you can't give away runs to teams in the playoffs and expect to win.
"There are four good teams in this tournament and all of these games are going to come down to who makes the fewest mistakes."
The Dons' first blunder came in the bottom of the fourth inning and resulted in an unearned run, which enabled the home-standing Eagles to take a 2-0 lead.
Sophomore Richie Leven opened the inning with a double to left field and moved to third on a wild pitch. Senior Vikas Varma followed with a grounder that Loyola third baseman Jason Smith fielded with no problem. However, Smith's throw to the plate sailed well over the outstretched glove of catcher Chris Holler, allowing Leven to score standing up.
McDonogh (14-2), which produced its first run on a sacrifice fly by Andrew Osborne in the third inning, added yet another run in the fourth when Varma eventually scored on a wild pitch to make it 3-0.
The Eagles, who scattered six hits against senior right-hander Eric Frankovic, picked up two more runs on two hits and one error in the fifth. A leadoff walk and two consecutive bunt singles loaded the bases for McDonogh. Frankovic forced Varma to pop out and then got Guy Robertson to hit a perfect double-play ball. But the throw to first went wide right, scoring Osborne and Michael Ginsburg and giving the Eagles a 5-0 lead.
Loyola did all of its scoring in the sixth inning when Smith lined a two-run single to left, which scored Ruffin Bell and Chris Marshall, who both had walked.
Senior Kenny Cloude started on the mound for the Eagles but was replaced in the third by Ginsburg. Cloude, who is expected to start today against the Cardinals, struck out four and gave up one hit.
Ginsburg, one of five sophomores in McDonogh's starting lineup, struck out six and yielded only three hits.
"We played solid and that's what we've done pretty much all season," said McDonogh coach Al Poklemba. "Today we didn't hit the ball as well as I anticipated, but we made the right plays and we ran the bases pretty well."