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Baseball: Nick Howard’s grand slam powers fifth-seeded St. John’s to WCAC championship

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Nick Howard was 0 for 5 and was hit by a pitch in his first six at-bats Saturday as St. John’s chased its first Washington Catholic Athletic Conference title in six years. He also was the losing pitcher in the first game of a doubleheader, as ninth-ranked DeMatha forced a decisive game in the best-of-three championship series.

Then, with the bases loaded in the top of the fourth inning, Howard made sure the day would be remembered as a success for the Cadets. His grand slam over the left-field fence broke the game open as St. John’s beat DeMatha, 10-3, at the University of Maryland’s Shipley Field.

“I was trying to get a pitch down the middle and hit it back up the middle,” Howard, who has signed with Virginia, said shortly after a teammate placed a pie tin full of shaving cream in his face. “It got elevated a little bit.”

The home run gave St. John’s an 8-1 lead that was more than enough as Justin Korenblatt pitched 31 / 3 innings of scoreless relief to close out the victory.

Joe Camp also homered and Jerry Chavarria singled twice for St. John’s (22-8), which had won Game 1 of the series on Friday night, 5-0, but lost Saturday’s opener, 4-3.

Howard, who has pitched sparingly this season because of arm soreness, allowed four of the first five batters to score in that game before settling down a bit too late for the Cadets to get a two-game sweep.

In between games, though, St. John’s remained confident. One player, seeing his older brother in the stands, asked him to get a can of shaving cream for a postgame celebration.

The Cadets have been a powerhouse in recent seasons only to fail to win in the playoffs. This season, though, they entered as the WCAC tournament’s fifth seed and beat three higher-seeded opponents.

“I think everybody would agree this league is as balanced as it has ever been going into the tournament,” Coach Mark Gibbs said as a lengthy postgame celebration was just getting started. “Obviously, not being 100 percent healthy and not having Nick available [to pitch was difficult], but it’s a tough league.”

St. John’s deMatha 10 3

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