The range of emotions for Archbishop Curley went something like this during yesterday's first-round playoff game against St. Paul's: elation, contentment, shock, frustration, contentment, joy.
All of it made for some pretty good baseball in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference, as the No. 4-ranked Friars jumped out to a big lead early, then sweated out a late rally to beat the No. 12 Crusaders, 8-5.
"We came out really fired up at the start," said Curley's Brooks Norris, who pitched a complete game for the host Friars. "We had a few lapses, maybe lost our concentration a bit, but I'm not going to get down about it. We pulled it out and beared down when we had to."
Curley jumped out to an 8-0 lead through the first four innings, taking advantage of some early wildness by Crusaders pitcher Brian Perkins. After scoring three runs in the first inning, Curley added two more in the second, courtesy of two St. Paul's errors and an RBI single from Justin Tester. They added a run in the third on a double from Frank Emmbardino, then two more in the fourth on a RBI double from Norris. It looked, in fact, like the Friars might roll though with ease.
But Curley's focus seemed to waver in the fifth inning, and it nearly cost the Friars. Normally a good defensive team, Curley committed three errors in the fifth inning, allowing St. Paul's to score five runs. John Chatman and Brent Weiss each knocked in a run, then David Beach doubled home two more before Norris stopped the bleeding, striking out Ray Brown.
"To say we were down a little bit is being kind, I think," said St. Paul's coach Paul Bernstorf. "For some reason, we just didn't come out very sharp. But we made some changes; they started looking ahead and we put a bunch of pressure on them. Brooks [Norris] just pitched a great ballgame."
Norris, who will play for the University of Maryland next year, gave up one earned run and struck out eight, and other than the rocky fifth inning, he was in command the entire game.
"They take a lot of first-pitch strikes, so other than Weiss, I really tried to go right after them," Norris said. "We just tried to be aggressive and keep them guessing."
Norris' only walk came in the first inning, on an intentional pass to Weiss, who is considered one of the best hitters in the metro area.
"He's a great hitter," Norris said. "I just tried to make someone else beat us."
No one else could, so Curley advances to play tomorrow against Mount St. Joseph, a 1-0 winner over Calvert Hall.
"We lost both our league games to Mount St. Joe, but we beat them in their tournament," said Curley coach Al Frank. "I think we match up real well with them, it's just a question of doing the job."
In a double-elimination tournament, you can never count anyone out, a fact that St. Paul's, which will face Calvert Hall tomorrow, is well aware of.
"I know that in 1999 when [Curley] won it, they came through the losers' bracket to win it, and we did the same thing in 1998 when we won it," Bernstorf said. "Anything can happen. It's great to win the first one, but the second one is just as important."