Archbishop Spalding wasted some good scoring chances late in the first game of the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship series Tuesday, a big reason Gilman rallied to win and force a deciding contest Wednesday.
The top-ranked Cavaliers did not make the same mistake twice. They banged out three run-scoring doubles in the top of the first inning, giving starter Zach Thompson an early lead, and the right-hander went the distance as Spalding clinched its third straight conference crown with a 5-3 victory over No. 10 Gilman at Loyola Blakefield.
Spalding (27-5) started quickly Wednesday. After David Harding's one-out infield single in the first, LaVale Hodges lined an RBI double to left-center. Barrett Smith followed with an RBI double to right.
Carter Sears added a third RBI double two batters later off starter Alex Shafer to give the Cavaliers a quick 3-0 lead. That set the tone as Spalding never trailed.
"It was big," Spalding coach Joe Palumbo said. "It was huge, huge. It changes the complexion of the game a little bit."
John Fitzgerald helped Gilman cut the lead on an RBI groundout in the first and a run-scoring single in the third. But Thompson then settled down and did not allow another hit until Pierce Bennett's RBI single in the seventh. The Cavaliers had stretched the lead to 5-2 at that point.
Thompson threw a lot of breaking pitches early, but switched to more fastballs after Fitzgerald's RBI single. Thompson then retired eight in a row while his teammates added two runs, one on Harding's triple in the fourth and another on Billy Godrick's single in the sixth, giving the Cavaliers that 5-2 lead.
Overall, Thompson gave up three runs on four hits. He struck out six with four walks to beat the Greyhounds for the third time this season.
Gilman (18-13) brought the winning run to the plate with two outs in the seventh, but Emmanuel Engermann flied out to deep center to end it.
"To settle down, it's so big because I don't feel as much pressure at all," Thompson said. "In a championship game, there's always going to be some nerves or butterflies, but once I got there and got through the first inning, I [was fine]."
His teammates helped him with some good plays on defense, a key one being a double play that shortstop Harding started to end the sixth. He made a diving stop on Shafer's grounder behind the bag, flipped the ball to second baseman Fletcher Pack, who quickly made the throw to first to finish it.
"Getting out to a 3-0 start was definitely big for us; it let us calm down a little bit," Harding said. "Zach, he did the rest really for us, getting ground balls and making guys put the bat on the ball and letting out defense work, and our defense held up today."
Gilman came up with some key hits in the win Tuesday, but could not find as many chances once Thompson found his rhythm. The right-hander allowed just two runners in scoring position after the first three innings, and Gilman came up short.
"We battled back but we couldn't get the big hit," Gilman coach Larry Sheets said. "We couldn't get the big hit, but you know what? We played well. We played hard and today they scored five runs and we scored three."
MIAA A Conference Championship
Spalding 5, Gilman 3
S300 101 0-- 5 10 1
G101 000 1-- 3 4 0
Thompson and Sears; Shafer, Willis (2), Nelson (6), Costes (7) and Ehrlich. 3B: S- Harding; 2B: S- Hodges, Smith, Sears, Blohm.