In the midst of an uncharacteristic three-game slide, it had been a couple weeks since the Archbishop Spalding baseball team had left the field on the winning side.
A gap in the schedule gave the Cavaliers three straight days of practice leading into Saturday’s league game at Mount Saint Joseph — time well spent in tinkering with their approach and mentality.
The hard work put in paid off with a complete effort on Saturday against Mount Saint Joe.
The Cavaliers got five strong innings from starting pitcher Eddie Sargent, a key two-run single from Ben Wieman, and played flawless defense with reliever Cody Sharman getting the last five outs in a 4-0 win over the Gaels.
Spalding improved to 6-4 and moved into a first-place tie with Archbishop Curley in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference with both teams enjoying 5-2 league marks. Mount Saint Joe falls to 7-3 and 4-3 in league play.
Spalding coach Joe Palumbo was impressed with the complete performance his Cavaliers displayed with the pressure of getting back on the winning track against a quality opponent.
“For them to take advantage of those three days of practice — hard days of practice — it just shows that they are maturing as we go through the season. And to come out and get a win when we really, really needed one, just shows a lot about their character and toughness,” Palumbo said.
It started on the mound with Sargent, who consistently got ahead of the Gaels with good mix and location — relying on a curveball he was able to keep on the outside half of the plate. In five innings, he allowed two hits, struck out five and didn’t issue a walk. His sacrifice fly in the second scored Tyler Smith with the game’s first run and then Wieman’s two-run single in the fifth gave him a 3-0 lead before he exited.
“We’ve been struggling the past two weeks, so we wanted to come out bringing that energy as soon as we got off the bus and compete until the last out of the game,” Sargent said. “I felt we did a pretty good job of that — fighting through every single inning and not taking off any innings. We just kept working.”
Zach Ford relieved Sargent to start the sixth and after getting the first batter out, yielded consecutive singles to Tanner Vicendese and Josh Lantz to put the tying run at the plate. Palumbo went to Sharman, who got Travis Leatherwood to fly out to center before Camaury Arrington hit a check-swing dribbler to the mound to end the inning. After the Cavaliers made it 4-0 in the top of the seventh — Thomas Joseph leading off with a double and scoring on a sacrifice fly by Parker Thomas — Sharman put the Gaels away in order to end the game.
Wieman’s at-bat in the fifth that gave the Cavaliers the three-run cushion summed up the Cavaliers’ approach as he got behind in the count against Gaels reliever Ty Whittaker, but kept battling.
“Two strikes — I was just trying to shorten up, put something in play and do my job to hopefully get us a couple runs to stay ahead in the game,” he said. “This was kind of a must-win game after a three-game losing streak, so we definitely came out today, worked hard and deserved it.”
Mount Saint Joe coach Phil Kraska was quick to agree, giving the Cavaliers credit. Aside from the sixth, the Gaels never had more than one player reach base in a given inning. Josh Lantz had half of the home team’s hits with a double and single.
“They played a good game. [Sargent] kept us off balance, we weren’t able to get anything going in the box,” he said. “It’s tough to win baseball games like that if you don’t get anything going offensively. So hats off to them. … They never made a mistake.”
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