Tuesday afternoon at Archbishop Curley, the rain was steady, but just light enough to get in a baseball game.
For Calvert Hall’s 20-year coach Lou Eckerl, that was great news.
After 13 innings that took nearly four hours, his team scratched out a 3-2 win over the Friars that displayed many of the qualities he has instilled in the storied program for the past two decades — playing hard and always believing from the start.
It made for three straight wins for the Cardinals (12-6) and another step up the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference standings with an 8-6 mark.
And, quite fittingly, it was Eckerl’s 500th career win.
In 23 years as a head coach — his first three came at his alma mater, Cardinal Gibbons, and then 20 more at Calvert Hall — the 68-year-old has a career record of 500-154.
What he savored most about Tuesday’s win was not the special milestone as much as the resolve his Cardinals showed in helping him achieve it.
“Yeah, I guess that’s kind of my personality — a little gritty, old school, grind it out,” he said. “I’ve really been trying to push my guys to that limit — to work hard, to never give up and believe in yourself. That’s kind of been the three things we’ve been pushing this year with these guys.”
Always with a team-first approach, Eckerl couldn’t help but be tickled by all the attention he has received soon after junior pitcher Steven Murfareh retired the last Friar to secure the victory. The Cardinals celebrated in more rain and presented him with the game ball with a newly marked “500” on it. Then came all the congratulations that started Tuesday night and poured into Wednesday.
“I’m excited — I’m having a really fun day today,” he said Wednesday morning. “The outpour of coaches in the league, alum, friends has really been humbling, but it has me excited today with all the phone calls, text messages that have blown up since last night. So it’s been extremely rewarding and comforting to see people care that much.”
Eckerl became the fourth high school baseball coach in the metro area to reach 500 wins with the late Bernie Walter’s 609 wins at the top of the list.
With 10 more wins at Calvert Hall, Eckerl will surpass his predecessor, Joe Binder, who has a 460-151 program mark.
Eckerl’s run has featured consistency — the Cardinals have never had a losing season under his watch — and a stretch of domination. They have won eight MIAA A titles, including a streak of five straight from 2005 to 2009 with the last one coming in 2019.
When Archbishop Spalding coach Joe Palumbo took over the Cavaliers in 2013, he was well aware — and in some awe — of where the standard was set in the conference.
“I remember going up to Calvert Hall my first year at Spalding and looking across at their dugout and seeing the intensity and the competitiveness of their coaching staff and their players and understanding why they were the best in Baltimore for such a long time,” he said. “I told our guys that’s where we want to be, that’s how we want to play and for me, getting an idea of the players that I need to get into my program to compete with them on a regular basis. It was very eye-opening and was easy to see his passion for the game and his team and his school. So it’s quite a milestone that I think all coaches can really appreciate the effort and the commitment to his school and his players to accumulate that many wins.”
Eckerl is quick to praise his coaching staff for bringing the same passion and baseball knowledge to help maintain the program’s extended success.
Assistant coach Brooks Kerr, who has been with him all 20 years at the Towson school, also has been instrumental in the program’s success.
“There are expectations and we talk about having players in our program that respect and do things right on and off the field and I think the discipline is a big part of what we do and why we’ve been successful. Doing it right, working hard, putting in the time I think is a major part of that,” Kerr said.
Kerr added Tuesday’s win was a proper representation of the Cardinals’ work under Eckerl.
“He is someone that is a grinder. … That’s the kind of person he is and the kind of mentality that he has as far as just the way you approach things. You just keep going, you don’t give up because you never know what’s going to happen,” he said.
Senior pitcher Alex Kahn, who provided five strong innings as the Cardinals starter and then walked and scored the winning run, was glad to be a part of such a special game that will never be forgotten.
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“He has really high expectations for us and he always pushes us to be the best version of ourselves,” he said. “The fact that is was such a long game and the energy was there and some tempers were flaring. Everybody was going crazy and the way we won it was awesome, so I think that’s something that we’ll all remember for sure.”