Wilson, St. Albans Claim Baseball Championships
Sunday, May 31, 2009
Under the lights at Nationals Park, the second annual Congressional Bank Baseball Classic unfolded like so many sandlot myths. St. Albans and Wilson met again in a rematch of last year's clash of public and private D.C. schools, this time with St. Albans holding a one-run lead heading into the bottom of the seventh.
Wilson refused to shrink from the pressure, though, showing the determination of a team set on not suffering yet another loss to the Bulldogs, who defeated the Tigers, 8-0, in the regular season on May 14 and 6-1 here a year ago. Sidney Balman reached on a grounder to third, Ben Whitener was hit by a pitch and finally Porter Ryan was intentionally walked to load the bases with two outs.
St. Albans senior pitcher Cameron Phillips couldn't imagine a more stressful situation. But the next Wilson batter gave him one, working to a full count and fouled off three additional pitches before Phillips recorded his eighth strikeout for the 5-4 victory.
"I was just hoping it'd be a quick one, two, three, like the sixth inning but it sure wasn't that," Phillips said. "He really put in a great at-bat, but I just had to stay confident."
Catcher Duncan Taylor was the first to tackle Phillips, who worked longer than any previous outing this season, but one by one the remaining Bulldogs (26-6) piled on to celebrate their second straight win in the city championship game over Wilson (16-9).
Wilson Claims 17th DCIAA Crown
As long as Jacob Polin has been alive, Wilson has won the D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association title. That could have given the 15-year-old right-hander plenty of assurance before he took the mound in yesterday's final. Instead, it gave him plenty of butterflies.
"We know this game means more than it does for ourselves," he said. "This is the tradition at the school and we couldn't let that end."
Polin did his part. The sophomore allowed six hits and struck out eight to lead the Tigers to a 9-1 victory over H.D. Woodson to give them their 17th consecutive DCIAA championship in the first game of the Congressional Bank Baseball Classic.
If there was a chance for Wilson to lose its stranglehold on the league, this season appeared to be it. The Tigers' longtime coach, Eddie Saah, retired after last season, and turned the program over to former assistant Eddie Smith, who felt the same pressure to uphold the streak that Polin and his teammates felt. Smith was a player on the Wilson team that lost a regular season game to Dunbar in 1999, the Tigers' only loss to a DCIAA opponent in 222 games.
"I stayed up last night thinking about it," Smith said. "You don't want to be the guy that loses the first one. Coach Saah leaves and I know I've got to make sure we uphold it."
Wilson (16-8) took care of that early. Spurred by three hit batsmen, the Tigers scored twice in the second inning on RBI singles by Kyle Flora and George Geiger. Alex Harris led off the third with a single, and eventually scored on a balk, and Sidney Balman singled, stole second and scored on a pair of throwing errors.
Three more hit batsmen eventually scored for Wilson in a four-run fourth inning. The early runs helped relax Polin, who knew Woodson's offense had scored an upset over School Without Walls, 13-12, in Thursday's DCIAA semifinal.
St. Albans Tops Private Schools
In the second game of the Classic, St. Albans (25-6) won the private school championship for the second straight year with a convincing 8-1 victory over Gonzaga (10-15). Senior pitcher Matt Bowman was terrific in his final high school start, striking out 10 and allowing just five hits in the complete-game effort.
Bowman, who has committed to Princeton, added, "the possibility is still there" for him to consider a pro contract offer depending upon where he is selected in June's Major League Baseball draft. He had a nice model to follow this season, taking over for last year's All-Met Player of the Year Danny Hultzen.
"He really stepped up big for us this year," St. Albans Coach Jason Larocque said. "Matt's gifts are that he's a real competitor, but he's also a relaxed, happy-go-lucky guy, so he doesn't understand what pressure is."