Cardinal Gibbons right-hander Justin King deserved a better fate, but as Yogi Berra used to say: "It ain't over 'til it's over."
Masterfully mixing three pitches -- fastball, slurve and a hard slider -- King took a three-hitter and a two-run lead into the bottom of the seventh yesterday in the first game played at No. 2 Calvert Hall's new field.
With two outs and the bases loaded, Calvert Hall's Nate Barker lifted a towering fly ball to center that Gibbons center fielder Corye Whittington caught up with, but dropped.
Taking off with the crack of the bat, all three runners scored with no play at the plate, and the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference Cardinals (4-1) eked out a 3-2 victory over the defending B Conference champion and No. 13 Crusaders (4-5).
"It was heartbreaking," said second-year Gibbons coach Lou Holcomb.
"Justin is a bulldog and was outstanding. It was a heck of a way to lose, but Justin is one of only two seniors that we have and I'm happy with the way we played overall. I told the kids that they're young and have to learn how to finish."
The seventh started with King, who threw only 89 pitches and struck out five, walking his first batter after going to three balls on a hitter only once before that. Joe Hinz drew the walk and Steve Ferreri followed with a single into left-center on an 0-2 pitch.
Joe DiChiara put down the expected bunt, but it was too close to the front of the plate. Gibbons catcher Craig King (no relation to Justin) pounced on it and fired a strike to third for a forceout on Hinz.
Pinch hitter Rob Wontrop went down swinging on three pitches, but leadoff man Rory Cernik's ground single on a 2-2 pitch through the left side loaded the bases.
It appeared that Cernik (2-for-4) might have taken strike three, but catcher King stood up on the pitch to rush to the mound and celebrate, and he may have partially blocked the umpire's view.
Barker hit the first pitch.
"The ball was hit hard and we got a break, " said Calvert Hall coach Snooky Binder, who was pleased with the start by ace left-hander Ryan Kyle and the relief effort by Kyle's younger brother, junior Matt, who picked up the win.
Ryan Kyle, who was 9-0 and an All-Metro selection last spring, worked into the sixth inning having given up an unearned run, which was doubled in by Craig King (3-for-3, two doubles) in the third.
Justin King led off the sixth with a single to the hole at short, and Clarence Briscoe's bunt was fielded by Kyle, who threw low in the dirt to second base, and everybody was safe. The first pitch to the next batter, D. J. Steirer, was in the dirt and got away from catcher Stu Kimmel, and the runners advanced to second and third.
Binder removed his ace, saying, "A veteran pitcher can't be doing that kind of stuff," and replaced him with his little brother, who is right-handed. Ryan Kyle's line was 94 pitches, no earned runs, four hits, two walks and five strikeouts.
Matt Kyle coaxed Steirer into grounding to second baseman Cernik in the drawn-in infield. Cernik threw out Steirer, but while the runner held at third, Briscoe had gone more than halfway to third and was hung up. First baseman Ferreri hesitated, then threw to shortstop Hinz, who in turn threw low to home with the run scoring for a 2-0 Gibbons lead.
Reliever Kyle retired the next two batters and threw a scoreless seventh for the victory.