When Archbishop Spalding's baseball team arrived at Ripken Stadium Tuesday for their Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship final against Calvert Hall, its collective head was filled with inspiration.
Only the night before, the Cardinals had provided some of the incentive, beating the Cavaliers by 10 runs in the first finals playoff game of the MIAA's double-elimination championship tournament. And then, before Tuesday's game, the Cavaliers' football coach Mike Whittles, who is fighting cancer, spoke and gave them direction.
Whittles told them to make things happen for themselves, to step up and battle. For Spalding, there would be no sitting back, as they used a complete game, five-hitter from ace Austin Clark and home runs from juniors Nick Freeberger and Jamal Clarke to defeat the Cardinals, 7-4.
"It would feel good to win this title against anyone," said Clarke, one of 10 juniors on Spalding's roster. "But to do it against another good team speaks to our character and intestinal fortitude. We knew Austin Clark was going to pitch his game and there hasn't been a team that could beat him all year."
The No. 1 Cavaliers (22-5) had lost to No. 3 Calvert Hall (28-9) twice during the regular season and on Monday. But they beat the Cardinals in their first postseason matchup and then again Tuesday to clinch the title.
"I took over a championship team," said Spalding coach Jeff Palumbo, who replaced long-time coach Steve Miller at the start of this season. "My job was to make sure we'd work hard enough to win the championship."
Freeberger, a transfer from Cardinal Gibbons, said he and his teammates were "embarrassed" Monday.
"Those four runs we scored in the first inning were more than we scored in six innings (a 13-3 loss)," said Freeberger, who homered to drive in two of the team's first four runs.
Freeberger's homer, coupled with a Ryan Metzler single and a Sean Miller double, was the beginning of a long afternoon for Calvert Hall, which was trying to win its 26th A Conference title.
"We kind of put ourselves in a big hole," said Calvert Hall outfielder Justin Frantantuono. "But they're a very talented team. They definitely showed up today."
Mount Carmel 6, Annapolis Area Christian School 0: Bobby Sanzone pitched a three-hit shutout to lead the Cougars to victory.
Mount Carmel came out of the loser's bracket in the double-elimination tournament and had to beat AACS twice in the past two days.
"They shut us down for two days," said AACS coach Talbot Watkins. "Tonight they pitched a heck of a game. We've been a great hitting team all year, averaging 8 to 10 runs. They did a heck of a job."
Saznone's effort on the mound came the day after teammate Evan Covelley tossed a two-hitter in the Cougars' 2-0 win. Sanzone also went 4-for-4 with three doubles and three RBIs Tuesday and was 7-for-7 over the two playoff games.
"I felt great and my team had my back," said Sanzone, a senior, who will play baseball at Salisbury University next year. "I love them."
AACS had its chances, loading the bases twice, the last time in the seventh inning. Jackson Hanratty, Raymond Hauf and Zachary Bradley all reached base, but Sanzone made sure they didn't come home.
"I just relaxed and took a deep breath," he said. "I knew when we beat [starting pitcher] Thomas [Williams] yesterday, 2-0, that we were going to get them."
AACS 000 000
Mt. Carmel 100 05
AACS Ridings. MC Sanzone. Krannebitter, Sanzone, Hansford (2B).
Archbishop Spalding 7, Calvert Hall 4
Archbishop Spalding 402 001 0
Calvert Hall 001 102 0
AS –Clark. CH – Walther (3). Koski. AS – Miller, Neary (2B). Freeburger, Clarke (HR). CH – Fratantuono, Burton (3B). Bosse (HR).