McDonogh third baseman Michael Steller said his team was focused yesterday -- something Mount St. Joseph saw very quickly.
No. 4 McDonogh took control with a three-run first inning, and Richie Levin threw a four-hitter as the host Eagles defeated No. 2 Mount St. Joseph, 5-1, in a Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference first-round playoff game.
McDonogh (19-3) goes to top-ranked Calvert Hall today, an 8-2 winner over Gilman. Mount St. Joe (20-4) plays host to the Greyhounds today in the other playoff game.
St. Joe defeated McDonogh, 2-1, last week as Ryan Baker tossed a two-hitter. Baker gave up only five hits in four innings yesterday, but four of the hits brought in all five runs.
"We felt we could've done a better job at the plate last week," said McDonogh coach Chet Janiga. "We thought that it was important that we concentrate on getting out of the chute fast in [this game]."
And so they did. Mike Dubansky led off for McDonogh in the bottom of the first with a single, and Guy Robertson followed with a walk. Mike Ginsberg then reached on an error to load the bases.
After Dennis Badham popped out, Steller (2-for-3) singled up the middle to score both Dubansky and Robertson. Jason Taylor then singled to left, scoring Ginsberg for a 3-0 lead.
And that was all Levin needed. The senior left-hander, headed for the University of Maryland, overcame a shaky start to go the distance.
Levin threw only 92 pitches -- 58 for strikes -- and continually kept the St. Joe batters off balance by mixing his fastball, curve and change-up. He struggled in the first inning, walking two, but settled down after that.
"I came out a little nervous," said Levin (6-1). "The [three-run first inning] gave me confidence. I just needed to get in the groove."
McDonogh added single runs in the third and fourth. Badham homered to center in the third, and Scott Breault singled in Levin for the final run.
St. Joe got its only run in the fifth, when courtesy runner Chad Byers (in for catcher Everett Cooper) scored on an error.
But the Gaels had their chances, leaving a total of nine runners. Mount St. Joe left at least two runners on in four of the seven innings.
"You can't leave men on base," said Mount St. Joe coach Dave Norton. "You're going to get a limited number of chances against a team like McDonogh. Our opportunities, we didn't take advantage of."
* Calvert Hall 8, Gilman 2: Andy Bair, Joe Miller and Jason Dean each homered to lead No. 1 Calvert Hall (27-2) over visiting Gilman in a MIAA A Conference playoff game.
Dean began the third inning with a bases-empty homer and Bair later followed with a three-run home run to put the Cardinals ahead 4-0.
John McKay (9-1) pitched a five-hit complete game for Calvert Hall.