ABERDEEN — Now the task is simple for the Archbishop Spalding baseball team.
If the Cavaliers are going to win their third straight Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference title, they just need to avoid doing something they haven't done all year. Lose two in a row.
Drew Ehrlich's two-out single in the top of the ninth inning scored the go-ahead run in Gilman's 6-5 victory over Archbishop Spalding on Tuesday night at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen. By virtue of the Greyhounds' victory, the teams will play one more time on Wednesday to decide the champion.
Archbishop Spalding hasn't lost back-to-back games all season and simply needs to continue that trend to win its third straight title and fourth since 2011. Gilman won A Conference titles in 1996 and 2010 and is the only team other than Spalding or Calvert Hall to win an A Conference title in the last 11 years.
"We need to be mentally tough enough to not let this affect us," Archbishop Spalding coach Joe Palumbo said. "We just need to learn from our at-bats and our mistakes tonight. The goal is still attainable. We just need to come out with some energy and match them tomorrow."
Ehrlich also pitched the final four innings and earned the win. He gave up the tying run in the bottom of the seventh, but stranded a pair of runners in each of the final three innings.
"We came out confident and ready to swing the bat. We knew (Tyler) Blohm was a great pitcher, so we just wanted to get on base any way we could," Ehrlich said. "This team is tough and really gritty. This has been a heck of a ride and it's been a lot of fun."
The teams will play for the title at Loyola Blakefield on Wednesday at 5 p.m.
"We battled and we beat a very good ballclub," Gilman coach Larry Sheets said. "That was a really good high school baseball game."
Gilman got a pair of extra-base hits off Cavaliers' starter Tyler Blohm, who earlier in the day was named the Gatorade Maryland Baseball Player of the Year, in the first two innings. Ehrlich hit a two-out double in the first, but Blohm struck out John Fitzgerald looking to end the inning. The Greyhounds took the early lead in the second when Max Costes launched a solo home run over the 378-foot sign in left-center field. Blohm struck out the side around the home run and had four strikeouts through the first two innings.
Spalding didn't waste any time tying the game in its half of the second. Barrett Smith led off the inning with a triple and scored on a wild pitch to make it 1-1. Brendan Foley tripled with two outs in the inning, but Alex Shafer struck out Fletcher Pack to end the inning.
Gilman took advantage of some Spalding miscues and put together a four-run top of the third. Isaac Engermann and Isaiah Braxton reached on errors, with Engermann scoring to put Gilman back ahead, 2-1. After a single and a fielder's choice, Fitzgerald singled in a run and Pierce Bennett followed with a ground rule double to right to drive in another run and made it 4-1. After Charlie Orlinsky struck out with the bases loaded and one out, Blohm walked Alex Slodzinski to force in another run to make it 5-1.
The Cavaliers missed an opportunity to cut into the lead in the fourth when they had runners on first and second and one out, but broke through for three runs in the fourth to make it a 5-4 game. Nick Vermillion singled in a pair of runs with two outs and Carter Sears followed with another single to get Spalding within a run heading to the sixth.
Blohm settled down after a shaky first three innings and retired nine straight from the fourth through the sixth innings. He walked Braxton to lead off the seventh, but struck out Fitzgerald and Carter Sears gunned down Braxton trying to steal third to end the inning. Blohm went seven innings, gave up the five runs on five hits and struck out 12.
With the Cavaliers down to their final at-bat in the bottom of the seventh, LaVale Hodges drew a one-out walk and scored on Smith's double to tie the game. After an intentional walk to Vermillion, Ehrlich struck out Sears and Foley to send the game to extra innings.
With the Cavaliers playing on Tuesday for the first time since May 18, Palumbo was able to set up his rotation to have his ace Blohm go on Tuesday, followed by Zach Thompson on Wednesday. Thompson is 7-2 with a 1.35 ERA. He's gone 2-0 against Gilman this year and has given up four earned runs on 13 hits and has struck out 11 while walking just two. After starting the season 7-0, he's gone 0-2 with a no decision in his last three appearances.
"Zach will be on the mound tomorrow and hopefully he's back to his dominant self," Palumbo said. "He gives us an opportunity to win."
WP: Ehrlich. LP: Hunt. 2B: GI – Ehrlich, Bennett; AS - Smith 3B: AS – Smith, Foley HR: GI - Costes RBI:GI – Costes, Fitzgerald, Bennett, Slodzinski, Ehrlich AS – Vermillion 2, Sears, Smith.