Curley takes 4th title in 4 decades for coach, topping St. Joe, 8-5

Tired Price's pitching, 11-hit attack stops Gaels

May 22, 1999|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,SUN STAFF

Raymond Price smelled the finish line, and Archbishop Curley won its first baseball championship since 1983 at Joe Cannon Stadium in Harmans yesterday.

A gutsy performance by Price, a senior left-hander working on two days' rest, and a typical Friars day with the bat carried No. 6-ranked Curley to the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference baseball championship by 8-5 over No. 4 Mount St. Joseph.

It was an unlikely fifth A Conference title in 37 years under Al Frank, the dean of area coaches.

Curley was the fourth tournament seed and lost its first tournament game on Monday, 7-6, to top-seeded, third-ranked Calvert Hall.

But the Friars (24-9) came back to win four straight to give Frank titles in four decades.

His Friars first won the A Conference title in 1969, when the MIAA was the Maryland Scholastic Association. They repeated in 1970. Frank's third title came in 1978, followed by one in 1983, and now, 1999.

Curley dealt St. Joe, which last won a title in 1987 and is 0-5 in finals since, its first defeat in the four-team double elimination by 5-1 Thursday night. That set the stage for yesterday's "if necessary" game.

"We played poorly the first game, put our backs against the wall, but just sucked it up and won four straight," said Frank, who credited his assistant coaches Tim Norris and Rich Pfaff, both All-Metro players on 1978 and 1986 teams, respectively.

"We've been building this team for four years, and I owe a lot to them," Frank said.

Working after throwing nearly 150 pitches on Tuesday in a 10-4 victory over No. 8 Loyola, the lanky, 6-foot-6, 190-pound Price went the distance to stop the Gaels (20-7).

Price (4-2) scattered seven hits, three by Gaels' shortstop Allen Strick, walked four and struck out eight on 129 pitches.

He showed signs of tiring in the middle innings and got a heavy dose of adrenalin when his teammates scored six runs to give the Friars a 6-4 lead after five innings.

"I was a little tired after two nights ago, but I knew I had to get the job done," said Price, who missed the first half of the season with injuries and came back to make the difference down the stretch.

"My teammates helped me out with the bats, and when we took the lead, the momentum definitely shifted."

The hard-hitting Friars had 11 hits.

Even so, St. Joe got on the scoreboard first. James Dunn took the game's fourth pitch from Price over the left-field fence for a 1-0 St. Joe lead.

The Gaels got to Price, who is weighing a scholarship offer to Drexel, for two more runs in the third on a double by Strick and sacrifice fly by Ben Maggio for a 3-0 lead.

But then, Curley tied the game in the third third on Mike Costello's bloop single to right and a two-run single by Derek Fritz.

In Curley's fourth, Andy Welling singled off losing pitcher John Ritt and came home on a triple to right-center by Steve Althoff. A grounder by Brian Salamone, who is like a second leadoff hitter as the team's No. 9 hitter, scored Althoff, making it 5-3, Curley.

The Gaels cut Curley's lead to 5-4 in the fifth on Joe Hargadon's hit.

Curley got that run right back when Kosmicky launched home run over the 380-foot sign in right-center with one out in the fifth.

RBI-singles by Costello and Fritz in the bottom of the sixth made it 8-4, Curley, with two outs.

Stevie Brown's sacrifice fly produced St. Joe's final run, and the game ended on a liner to Curley shortstop Althoff, setting off the traditional pile-up on the mound.

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