The last time Patapsco's Chris Mirabile faced No. 12 Overlea, he was suffering from recent bouts with bronchitis and pneumonia.
Operating at half strength, the senior pitched admirably, keeping the No. 14 Patriots in the game before they suffered their only Baltimore County 2A-1A League loss of the season.
Mirabile swore then that he'd beat the Falcons before the end of his high-school career.
Yesterday, back at full strength, he reached that goal. After guaranteeing coach Dave Ingle a win, Mirabile struck out nine and allowed one hit through the first five innings en route to a 4-3 home win.
"I'm a senior, and I wanted them," said Mirabile, who ran his record to 6-1. "They're one of the better teams in the state. This was the hardest I've thrown all year."
The win gave Patapsco (14-1, 14-1) sole possession of first place in the league over Overlea (14-2, 13-2).
After a shaky first inning, in which he gave up a run, Mirabile calmed down to retire the side in order in three of the next four. He used a fastball in the mid-80s, a biting curve and an occasional sinker to throttle Overlea hitters.
And in the first inning, he got a lot of help from Overlea.
The Falcons committed three errors in the first six batters, helping sustain a Patapsco rally that netted its only four runs of the game.
After Scott Palmerino and Mike Scruggs singled to open the inning, Jerry Vecchioni reached on an error by shortstop Craig Schoepflin, and Darrell Esteppe followed with a soft pop to center that Brian Lijewski cradled then dropped, giving the Patriots a 2-1 lead.
Wayne Wright then singled to left and stole second, putting runners on second and third, and Sal Greensfelder followed with a slow roller to first that Andy King fielded and threw to the backstop, scoring two more to increase the lead to 4-1.
"That was the key," said Overlea coach Dave O'Neill. "We gave the ballgame to them in the first inning. We just didn't perform in the field."
With a three-run lead, Mirabile took control, seeming to get stronger as the game went on.
"I had a lot of butterflies flying around in the first inning," he said. "It was just a matter of getting the nerves out. If I have a lead, I know I have something to work with.
"I can go right at the batter."
Overlea got a run back in the third, and another in the sixth, but had their final chance snuffed out when Esteppe threw out pinch runner Greg Stevenson trying to steal second with none out in the seventh.
For Ingle, the win was a big one. It not only gave the Patriots first place in the league, but gave them momentum heading down the stretch.
"This was a very big game," said Ingle.
"I'm looking forward to seeing them in the regionals somewhere. They always give us a good game."