Nic Stockson took a sharp turn through first base before slamming on the brakes at second. He stood atop the bag to lift one leg and both arms like Ralph Macchio in “The Karate Kid.”
The sophomore left fielder didn’t know he would be starting until he got out of school Friday afternoon and figured it would be a good day to test his new celebration. His first of two run-scoring extra-base hits kick-started John Carroll’s second-inning onslaught.
One lap through the rest of the batting order put the Patriots up 7-0, setting the foundation for a 12-1 win over Loyola Blakefield at Cal Ripken Park’s Leidos Field. The game was halted after 4 1/2 innings because of the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference’s mercy rule.
“Our bats were hot and we had a couple key situations where guys came up big,” John Carroll coach Darrion Siler said. “Stockson getting that extra-base hit I think was a big momentum shift for us. But at the end of the day I was really proud of the way we attacked at the plate.”
Baseball was merely the vehicle for a greater purpose Friday night: the Josh Hamer Memorial game, an annual Patriots tradition — now in year six — honoring its namesake.
Hamer died in a car accident March 2, 2017. He was just days removed from having earned his spot on John Carroll’s varsity team as a sophomore pitcher.
Seven weeks after Hamer died, the Aberdeen IronBirds hosted their first memorial game for John Carroll. That summer, the Orioles’ High-A affiliate wore patches with Josh’s No. 25 on their sleeves — the same patches donning John Carroll’s uniforms Friday.
“He would be honored,” Hamer’s mom, Jen, said. “I heard stories left and right after Josh passed away from young boys — 15 and 16 year olds — telling me stories of what Josh did for them. I knew that he was special. I knew that there was a ray and a light that just followed him. ... He was very gifted and I believe that his purpose was to do what we’re doing: to allow other kids to have the opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have.”
Jen spoke before the game, sharing her appreciation for the overwhelming support of her late son.
The Josh Hamer Memorial Scholarship fund was created shortly after Hamer died for incoming or transfer students who play baseball. Over the past six years, according to Jen, the fund as given out 18 scholarships while raising more than $250,000.
“It’s always difficult for us to come out here and try to do right by Josh’s legacy,” Siler said. “There are all kinds of emotions. The guys are fired up and we had a big talk and prayer before the game to remind ourselves why we’re here. I couldn’t be more proud of the way we handled it.”
Jen said earlier in the day she had spent all week praying for clear skies, despite the forecast projecting a combination of rain and wind that could have postponed the contest. Conditions cooled as the night progressed, but the rain held up.
Loyola Blakefield registered its lone run in the fourth inning but left a runner stranded in scoring position. The Dons never mustered much offense the rest of the way.
Designated hitter Joseph Nottingham crossed the plate after his lone hit in two at-bats. Loyola Blakefield shuffled through three pitchers, surrendering a combined 12 runs on 12 hits while striking out three and walking five.
John Carroll’s bats picked back up, responding with five more runs in the bottom of the fourth. Second baseman Will Rhine belted a single up the middle to drive in two runs of his own. That extended the Patriots’ lead to 9-1 in the fourth. Stockson helped two more cross the plate, this time sliding safely into third and repeating his crane-like kick celebration before scoring himself.
“The starter was pretty good, his fastball really ran up on you,” Stockson said. “Once he threw those first two, I was sitting fastball and he just gave it to me.”
Wyatt Krebs and Matthew Bishop split duties on the mound for John Carroll. Krebs struck out three and gave up two hits in three innings. Bishop closed out the win, allowing one run with one strikeout.