Jose Torres must have ice water in his veins.
The senior entered to pitch in a tight game in the seventh inning Monday night, loaded the bases with one out, then got a fielder’s choice and a pop-up to give Calvert Hall a 4-2 win over Gilman in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship at Harford Community College.
The victory gave the top-ranked Cardinals (24-6, 19-2) their first MIAA title since 2013, an uncommonly long time for a program known for producing them.
“I think I like the dramatic,” said a smiling Torres. “It really wasn’t what we wanted, but hey, we’ll take it.”
“We played hard tonight,” Gatorade-drenched coach Lou Eckerl said. “This was a great win for our kids. They bought in as a team this year. They played for the team, and not as individuals. Their sacrifices paid off.”
Garrett McIlhenney led the Cardinals with three singles, while starting pitcher Pete Marchineck contributed the game’s only home run.
But it was Gilman (24-11, 16-7) that struck first. In the top of the first, a single by Tyler Martinez drove in Ryan Williamson to give the Greyhounds a 1-0 lead.
Calvert Hall responded in the bottom of the first, using a double by Parker Landwehr to plate McIlhenney and tie the game.
The Cardinals took the lead for good in the second, when Marchineck led off the inning with a home run to right field. Calvert Hall added another run on a double steal when Sami Kahn scored for a 3-1 lead.
The Cardinals picked up another run in the fifth, when an overthrow on an attempted steal of third by McIlhenney sailed into left field.
Gilman refused to back down.
Leading 4-1, Marchineck put two runners on while only recording one out to start the seventh, forcing Eckerl to bring in Torres, who walked Casey Bishop to load the bases.
Gilman’s Pierce Bennett then hit into a fielder’s choice. After recording the first out at the plate, catcher Landwehr threw the ball past the first baseman, which allowed Michael Mallas to score and cut the lead to 4-2.
With runners on second and third, Torres walked Martinez to load the bases again. Fortunately for the Cardinals, his next pitch induced a pop-up to left fielder Kahn to give Calvert Hall the title.
“I wear a cross around my neck, and I pulled it out in the seventh inning and told myself that I had to have faith,” McIlhenney said. “I had faith in Jose, and he came through for us again.”
The title was the 12th in program history for the Cardinals, and the ninth for Eckerl — with one coming at Cardinal Gibbons.
“I can’t really say where this one ranks,” Eckerl said. “Somewhere near the top. We went two-and out in the playoffs last year, and that’s never happened to us before. These kids really took that to heart, and didn’t want that to happen again. That’s what makes this one special.”
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