Spalding on rise in `new' sport as winning breeds confidence

Cavs seen challenging usual MIAA hierarchy

Baseball

High Schools

April 02, 2004|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,SUN STAFF

Archbishop Spalding is establishing a new niche. Well known for its basketball over the last few years, the school now has a baseball team with ingredients to make a serious run in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference.

That's unheard of in a league perennially dominated by Calvert Hall, Mount St. Joseph and, in recent years, two-time defending champion St. Paul's.

St. Paul's (12-4, 4-0 league) visits Spalding at 3:45 p.m. today with Cavaliers ace Andrew Germuth (3-1) expected to go against two-time All-Metro junior right-hander Steve Johnson (5-0).

Spalding (8-2 overall, 3-1 league), led by second-year coach Steve Miller, is ranked No. 4, the highest in baseball the school has ever been.

Miller, a former Triple-A shortstop in the San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres farm systems, led Spalding to a 12-10 record last spring, missing the playoffs by a game.

"Last year was the first time my kids had been in that position to make the playoffs," said Miller, 41, who is from Hyattsville and played at DeMatha and Maryland before turning pro as a shortstop. "Mentally, they were not able to get it done, but now they believe they can do it. Winning changes a lot of things, and I've got eight seniors."

Four of those seniors - Germuth, who has committed to Mount St. Mary's for next year, center fielder Brandon Woods, third baseman/outfielder Drew Poiter and catcher Justin Perry - are in their third varsity seasons.

"They're giving us senior leadership, and we're pretty solid at every position," said Miller, who is a commercial sales manager. "And we've got several others who are doing a great job, especially our other pitchers. Your No. 2 and No. 3 guys have to do the job in a league like this to win."

Dan Palumbo, a sophomore who transferred from DeMatha and pitches or plays shortstop, pitched the Cavaliers to an 11-1 win over No. 9 Old Mill (2-2) last week. His older brother, Joe Palumbo, is DeMatha's starting shortstop.

The Cavs can also call on senior left-hander Keith Price and sophomore right-hander Brendan McGowan.

"We're on the way up because of Coach Miller," said Germuth, who was 7-2 as a junior and is off to a 3-1 start, including a no-hitter over then-nationally ranked DeMatha. "He's the man. We bought into his system last year and have been successful ever since."

One of the things Miller has done is to keep everybody busy in practice, getting more accomplished in less time.

"We get in and get out of practice in two hours with more done than if we went three," said Germuth.

Said Perry, the club's converted catcher who willingly moved from shortstop, the position he will play at Marshall University, to help the team: "Coach Miller has been huge in bringing a whole new attitude to the team. He's taught us different aspects of the game and the right way to play because of his experience in the game. We expect to be in the championship game."

Last year was Spalding's first winning season since the 1992 team went 12-11 under the late Tommy Lind. That was the last time and only the second time the Cavs made the A Conference playoffs.

The current Cavaliers dropped their first A Conference game, 12-4, to No. 9 Calvert Hall (5-4, 3-2) on Wednesday but are looking to rebound today against St. Paul's.

"We're anxious to play them - and Johnson," said Germuth.

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