The first confrontation between the two premier baseball teams in the MSA A Conference turned into the Ben Daniels show yesterday.
Daniels, a junior right-hander, was never in serious trouble as he pitched Mount St. Joseph to a 6-1 victory over Calvert Hall in a showdown for first place in the A Conference.
Daniels silenced the four-time defending A Conference champions on six hits, and the only run he allowed crossed the plate on a fifth-inning ground-ball double play.
After having to fight for a starting pitching berth for the No. 2-ranked Gaels (6-1, 10-3), Daniels has put together a 3-1 record.
He had the No. 3 Cardinals (5-2, 8-6) hitting the ball on the ground most of the afternoon at Calvert Hall.
"Ben has been consistent lately, and he's been getting ahead of the hitters," said St. Joe coach Dave Norton. "He goes with three pitches mostly, fastball, slider and split finger. Today he stayed with the slider and had them hitting the ball into the dirt."
Norton said he hopes that yesterday's performance was the real Mount St. Joe team.
"We've been a little inconsistent this year. We lost to [unranked] Glen Burnie, 15-2. After playing the way we did today, I don't think we should be losing 15-2 games."
Daniels got all the runs he needed in the top of the first inning when the Gaels scored three times on Jeff Mengel's run-scoring triple, a walk, two stolen bases and two passed balls.
Rob Blaylock accounted for the other three Mount St. Joe runs with a two-out, bases-loaded fly ball down the right field line. It went for a three-run single, barely eluding first baseman Andy Weltlinger and second baseman Matt Zienty and was typical of the kind of tough luck that starting Calvert Hall pitcher Brian Matz had all afternoon before being taken out in the sixth inning with a runner on second and one out.
Matz, a left-hander, entered the game with a 4-0 record and was touched for six hits. Cardinals catcher Nick Ey had trouble handling Matz's pitches and was replaced in the fifth inning by Paul Barabasz.
"There were some balls that definitely should have been caught in the outfield," said Calvert Hall coach Joe Binder, who has guided the Cardinals to five A Conference titles in 14 varsity seasons. "And Matz's ball was jumping around a lot and that gave our catcher trouble. Right now we're having a few problems with things such as missed practices and discipline. We're a much better team than we showed today."
The Cardinals will get the chance to atone on May 11, at Mount St. Joseph.