McDonogh entered yesterday's playoff game against third-ranked Calvert Hall at Towson State looking for a measure of respect. It left with a 7-3 victory and the MSA A Conference baseball championship.
The Eagles got their third win in four meetings this season against the four-time defending champion Cardinals, proving conclusively that eighth-ranked McDonogh has completed its ascension to the top of the conference. Yesterday's win was the Eagles' third straight in the double-elimination tournament.
"Our goal early in the season was just to make the playoffs," said McDonogh coach Al Poklemba, whose team finished 20-7, including five wins over A Conference powers Calvert Hall and Mount St. Joseph. "I told them that once we got there, we'd just take it one step at a time. It's been a building year for us. It feels terrific to be in this position."
Pitcher Kenny Cloude went the distance for McDonogh, scattering eight hits and striking out five. Cloude also was 3-for-4 the plate with two RBIs.
He said he and his teammates were inspired by a quote in the newspaper by a Calvert Hall player saying that McDonogh wasn't "a solid team."
"We put it up in the locker room," said Cloude, a junior who finished the year with a 13-1 mark and a .440 batting average. "That just got the adrenalin flowing. We just knew we'd come out and beat these guys."
After Calvert Hall (19-8) gained an early 1-0 lead, the Eagles scored two in the bottom of the first, and went on to score in each of the first four innings.
They took advantage of an uncharacteristically wild Calvert Hall starter Andy Weltlinger, who gave up four hits and seven walks in 2 2/3 innings.
"He had a tough time throwing strikes," said Calvert Hall coach Joe Binder. "He couldn't get the ball over."
The Cardinals trailed only 3-2 in the third when Weltlinger lost the plate for good. In succession, he walked Mike Ginsberg, Andrew Osbourne and Jeremy Seipel, and went 2-0 to No. 9 hitter Ian Hendricks before being replaced.
Ginsberg and Osbourne eventually scored to give McDonogh a 5-2 lead. Stifled by Cloude's fastball, Calvert Hall never threatened after that.
"I just tried to throw strikes with good location and make them hit the ball," said Cloude. "They hadn't seen me this year, so I think they were a little surprised."
Poklemba had intentionally not pitched Cloude against Calvert Hall, hoping to surprise the Cardinals in a big game such as this.
"He did what he had to do," said Poklemba. "I've seen him be more sharp, but he got the job done."
Cloude will return next season, with the nucleus of this young team. For Weltlinger, however, it's off to Cal State-Fullerton.
McDonogh players said the fact that he had already signed to pitch in college gave them extra inspiration throughout the season.
"He had gotten into trouble with us before, so we knew it could happen again," said the Eagles' Jordan Stellar, who went 2-for-4 with an RBI. "From Day 1, we thought we were of playoff potential. Now, it's like a dream come true."