Confident in answering every important challenge this season, the No. 1 Archbishop Curley baseball team enjoyed a big fifth inning in its biggest test yet Monday night, scoring four runs to pull away from No. 9 Gilman, 8-3, and claim the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship at Harford Community College.
The Friars finished the season with a 28-4 record — winning all three of their postseason games — to capture program’s seventh championship and first since 2001.
After taking a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the fourth, Curley had five hits in the pivotal four-run fifth to put the game away.
Gavin Evans hit a two-run triple and Nick Richardson and Derrick Booker (2-for-3, two RBIs, two runs) followed with run-scoring singles for an 8-3 lead, more than enough for starting pitcher Paul Nixon, who allowed three runs on six hits in six innings, to get the win. Richardson came in to pitch the seventh, stranding two runners with a strikeout to end the game. Tyler Locklear and Booker homered earlier in the game.
“It’s overwhelming -- we’ve worked so hard for this. It’s four years of hard work, us being together and I don’t really know what to say right now. It just feels great right now,” said Nixon, who also had three singles in the win. “This year, every game we played was has been a close game. … We just buckled down.”
The Friars beat Gilman all four meetings this season, including a second straight one-run win in Wednesday’s winners’ bracket game by a 4-3 score.
On Monday, another tight game was unfolding with the Greyhounds taking a 3-2 lead on a home run from Michael Willis in the top of the fourth inning. The Friars have responded well when down all season and it’s been every player in the lineup taking turns stepping up.
In taking the lead for good at 4-3 in the bottom of the sixth, they manufactured two runs on two walks, and error and two singles — Jalen March’s driving in the go-ahead run.
The four-run fifth put the icing on the incredible season that was a long time in the works.
“It’s exciting. It’s been five years in the making and we went through our struggles the first couple years, but they learned a lot,” Curley coach Brooks Norris said. “Everybody throughout the lineup has been huge — we’ve had contributions from everybody in the lineup throughout the year.”
Gilman, which beat defending champion Loyola Blakefield, 2-1, in an elimination game Sunday, finishes with a 15-4 mark.
The Friars have been on a season-long roll, enjoying 13- and 10-game winning streaks, and a 15-3 league mark that earned them the top seed in the playoffs. They opened the postseason with a 12-2 win over Loyola before beating the Greyhounds twice more to capture the crown.
G 0 0 2 1 0 0 0 — 3 8 1
AC 1 0 1 2 4 0 x — 8 12 1
Heubeck, Leikus (4), Tacka (5), Buckley (6) and Mallas; Nixon, Richardson (7) and Gast-Woodard. 2B: G – Mallas. 3B: AC – Evans. HR: G – Willis; AC – Locklear, Booker.