They are friends and former Maryland Baseball Academy teammates, two of the top players in Montgomery County on two of its most formidable teams. So when Gaithersburg’s Nick DeCarlo stepped into the batter’s box, and Poolesville’s Robbie Metz toed the rubber, each knew the at-bat that followed would be a battle.
There were two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning Monday night at Kelley Park in Gaithersburg, and the bases were loaded. The ninth-ranked Trojans had just scored a run on an infield single, cutting No. 3 Poolesville’s lead in half. And DeCarlo, a Mount St. Mary’s commit, was up.
“I didn’t really want to face him,” Metz said. “But he came up. I just tried to get ahead in the count, keep it low so he couldn’t really do anything with it.”
Metz succeeded, striking out DeCarlo on three pitches to seal Poolesville’s 2-1 victory in what was the de facto county championship game. The George Washington signee allowed only five hits and finished with 11 strikeouts, including three in the bottom of the seventh — and the one that ultimately made the difference.
“That time, we won. That time,” Poolesville Coach Steve Orsini said. “That battle, we won. Another battle, Nick might be the winner. That was our day.”
But before they faced off in the final at-bat of the regular season, DeCarlo and Metz faced off as opposing pitchers. DeCarlo started the game and recorded eight strikeouts over four scoreless innings. But he was abruptly replaced by left-hander Anthony Felitti in the top of the fifth, and the Falcons quickly scored the game’s first run on two walks and a single.
Nick Pantos then entered the game to pitch the seventh. Gaithersburg Coach Jeff Rabberman said he had predetermined who would pitch, and for how many innings, to prepare for the Maryland playoffs that begin next week.
“I didn’t want Pantos and Felitti to go a week and a half without throwing in a live game, and I didn’t want Nick’s best game today,” Rabberman said. “I need his best game on Monday, and then his next best game the next day he pitches.”
Orsini and Poolesville took a different approach. After retiring the Trojans in order in the sixth, Metz returned to the dugout with confidence.
“I got it,” he told Orsini.
“Okay, that makes my job easy,” Orisini said later. “Ride the horse.”
Poolesville (17-1) added a second run in the seventh, as Towson commit Thayer Seely crushed his third home run of the season to right-center field.
In the bottom of the inning, Metz walked the leadoff batter and gave up two quick singles to load the bases. He settled down and recorded two strikeouts before Jake Thomas drove in a run by beating the throw on a slow chopper to third base for Gaithersburg (17-2). That set the stage for Metz and DeCarlo.
“I love those big moments. I thrive in them,” Metz said. “It’s why I love baseball.”