McDonogh coach Chet Janiga said that what makes his team special this year is an intangible called senior leadership.
It's what helped the Eagles erase the memories of last season's disappointing 12-12 record, and it's what helped them overcome this season's potentially crippling 1-5 start.
Yesterday, in the first round of the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference playoffs, it's also what helped carry them to a 7-3 win over host Mount St. Joseph.
Senior left-hander Bradd Caplan went the distance, scattering nine hits as his team dodged bullet after bullet in winning for the 14th time in its past 15 league games.
The third-seeded Eagles are 1-0 in the double-elimination round-robin tournament heading into today's second-round game at top-seeded Calvert Hall, a winner over Gilman yesterday.
"This team has done anything it needs to, to win," Janiga said. "We've got it going pretty good, but we said we had to lift it up for the playoffs a little bit, and they did today."
McDonogh (15-7) pounded three St. Joe pitchers for seven runs on 10 hits as every starter reached base at least once.
Shortstop Cap Poklemba and left fielder Shaun Semesky each had two hits, each collecting RBIs as the Eagles took a 3-0 lead in the second.
The Gaels, meanwhile, couldn't do much with their runners, stranding nine men on base in the middle five innings alone.
The key play of the game occurred in the home half of the third. With two men on and two out, Gaels all-Metro slugger Mark Teixeira's bid for an extra-base hit was stolen away by Jeremy Brown's sprawling shoe-string catch in right to retire the side.
St. Joe did score twice to make it 3-2 in the fourth, but failed to take the lead when Caplan struck out No. 3 batter Mike Floyd with the bases loaded.
McDonogh then scored a run in the fifth on Tim Heller's RBI single, two in the sixth and one in the seventh to put the game out of reach.
With St. Joe threatening in the seventh, Caplan got catcher Cody Wargo to bounce into a game-ending 5-4-3 double play.
For McDonogh players, the win was big.
"It's huge. It's a big momentum builder going into the second round," said Caplan (9-1), who beat St. Joe for the second time this season. "It's good to get the first one and kind of relax."
Even after starting so poorly, Janiga said he never lost faith in his senior-dominated team.
"We just knew that eventually we'd turn it around," Janiga said. "We thought we'd be a good playoff team down the line."
MIAA B championship
Chapelgate 17, St. Mary's 0: Chris Davidson pitched a shutout and went 5-for-5 with two homers, including a grand slam as Chapelgate Academy humbled St. Mary's in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference Tournament final at Alpha Ridge Park in Howard County.
With the wind blowing out in a park with fences less than 300 feet (298 dead center), Chapelgate belted seven homers, including two grand slams.
Right fielder Jeremy Nolan also hit two homers, including a grand slam, and all nine starters had at least one hit as the Flames (14-2) won the B championship in their inaugural season.
"My guys really rose to the occasion and pulled together as a baseball club," said Flames coach Bunk Nolan. "It's to their credit, not mine."
Pub Date: 5/22/98