Calvert Hall yesterday showed Mount St. Joseph the importance of clutch hitting.
Tim Pilarski, Josh Itzoe, Adam Roberts and Brian Matz combined to knock in all of No. 2 Calvert Hall's runs with two-out hits, and the host Cardinals held off a late rally by No. 6 Mount St. Joseph for a 6-5 victory in a Maryland Scholastic Association A Conference playoff game.
The victory moves Calvert Hall into the championship round against No. 4 McDonogh -- the defending champion -- in a rematch of last year's final. The two teams meet tomorrow at 3:45 p.m. at Memorial Stadium. McDonogh needs one victory to win the title, while Calvert Hall must win twice.
Calvert Hall (19-4), which has made the championship round 11 times in the last 13 years, leaned heavily on its clutch hitting. The Cardinals got five of their nine hits with two outs, including all of the run-producing ones.
Calvert Hall coach Joe Binder expressed concern about his defense, which made two errors and had some other shaky moments, but liked the hitting.
"I thought we hit the ball pretty well," said Binder. "It was certainly well enough to win."
Mount St. Joe coach Dave Norton agreed.
"Most of their hits came with two outs," said Norton. "They got the hits when they needed them."
It started early. Trailing, 1-0, Pilarski put the Cardinals on top with a two-run double down the right-field line against St. Joe starter Steve Matcuk. Larry Marino and Matz scored on the play, but Pilarski was thrown out at third.
"He threw me a fastball high and outside, and I got the bat head out and went with it," said Pilarski, who went 2-for-3. "I think that got everyone up."
Itzoe knocked in Liam Healy with a two-out single in the second for a 3-1 lead. Then, with two outs in the third, Roberts came up with the bases loaded for the game's big play.
Roberts blooped a fly ball to shallow center field. Matt Neighoff of Mount St. Joe (16-5) raced in, slid and came up holding the ball. The umpire ruled it a trap, and Marino and Pilarski scored for a 5-1 lead.
Norton argued the call for several minutes before being ejected. He said after the game that the home-plate umpire said Neighoff caught the ball, but the base umpire -- who made the call -- would not ask for help.
That play seemed to fire up Mount St. Joe. Matz knocked in Itzoe with a two-out double in the fourth for a 6-1 lead, but the Gaels then began to rally.
Sophomore starter Andy Bair (2-0) threw well early for the Cardinals, striking out five in three innings. He ran into control trouble in the fourth, giving up a hit and walking two to load the bases before giving way to Matz with two outs.
Matz escaped that jam but ran into trouble in the fifth. Neighoff hit a two-run homer over the left-field fence. Tim Trotta led off the sixth with another homer to left, slicing the lead to 6-4.
Later in the inning, Rob Blaylock singled in Jobe West to make it 6-5. Neighoff followed with an infield single to put runners at first and third, but Matz got Matcuk to line to center.
Those were the first homers Matz has given up at Calvert Hall, and the senior left-hander knew he was not sharp.
"When I got out there, I didn't feel like I usually do," said Matz, who got the save. "My fastball just didn't seem like it had a lot of pop on it."