Lucas Martinez had stewed and vented between innings. A ball had popped out of the Paul VI Catholic second baseman’s glove in the top of the third inning, the error allowing the game’s first run to score. He wanted an opportunity to make up for the mistake in Sunday’s Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship game.
“He was upset, in there yelling and throwing his glove,” Panthers Coach Billy Emerson said. “There was no point in me saying anything. He got himself back together.”
(Mark Gail/WASHINGTON POST) - Paul VI's William Ellis (left) Owen Costello (center) and George Capen (right) celebrate the Panthers’ victory over McNamara on Saturday. The Panthers won again the next day to claim the tournament title.
Martinez failed to capitalize on his first chance, flying out with two runners on and two outs in the bottom of the third. But in his next at-bat, with the bases loaded and Paul VI still trailing by a run in the bottom of the fifth, Martinez flicked an 0-2 pitch down the right field line for the game’s decisive hit.
Two runs scored on the single and a third came home on an error on the play. By the time Martinez slid safely in the third base, the Panthers were on their way to their third WCAC title.
Pitcher Braedon Lawson gutted out a 125-pitch effort and stranded the potential game-tying run at third base in the seventh inning as Paul VI held on to beat McNamara, 3-2, in the third game of the WCAC’s best-of-three championship series at the University of Maryland.
“This is an emotional game, you can’t just brush it off,” Martinez said. “You’ve got to stick to it. I wanted another chance. . . . I got the opportunity in my last at-bat and I did it. It feels real good.”
Paul VI (20-11) next plays in the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association tournament on Tuesday.
McNamara (13-18), which finished eighth in the nine-team league during the regular season and was trying for its first WCAC championship, threatened in the final inning as Jack Hopkins and Connor Hax singled. Then, with two outs, Hunter Mohler sailed a double off the tall outfield fence in left. Hopkins missed third base and had to circle back to touch it on his way home, preventing a pinch runner from trying to score on the play before Lawson was able to get the final out.
“It would have been a huge upset to everybody except my players and coaches,” McNamara Coach Larry Prange said. “We absolutely believed we had a chance to win. And we had a chance to win.”