DeMatha 5, St. John's 3

The eerie feeling was beginning to creep into the mind of DeMatha pitcher Brett Cecil as the fourth-ranked Stags tried to close out the final inning and win their third consecutive Washington Catholic Athletic Conference title.

Only a week had passed since Cecil took a no-hitter into the seventh inning against St. John's but lost the lead in a game that eventually lasted 18 innings. Last night, in the championship game of the conference tournament, DeMatha's four-run lead was cut in half, and the potential game-tying run was on first base.

"Worried?" DeMatha Coach Charlie Sullivan said. "On a level of 1 to 10, I was a 12."

There was no need. Cecil, who took a no-hitter into the sixth inning last night, got a slow chopper for a forceout, finishing the Stags' 5-3 victory over the fifth-ranked Cadets before an overflow crowd of 900 at Shirley Povich Field in Bethesda.

After a pause of about two seconds, Cecil turned toward third baseman Anthony Russell and the two seniors threw their gloves in the air in celebration as teammates poured from the dugout.

"It was a great feeling," said Cecil, who played despite having strep throat. "The whole year was built for this."

It was the teams' fourth meeting of the season. St. John's (22-5) won the first two, then DeMatha prevailed, 5-4, in the 18-inning game. In that game, Cecil allowed two runs in the seventh that allowed the game to go to extra innings; play was suspended because of darkness after 17 innings. When the game resumed three days later, Cecil came on in relief to strike out the final two batters for the save.

Cecil, who has signed with Maryland and is expected to be selected in next month's major league draft, was just as dominant for much of last night's game. He struck out two batters in each of the first three innings and cruised into the sixth.

In the meantime, DeMatha built a 5-0 lead. Nick Jowers singled in a run in the first inning, and Cecil had a run-scoring single in the fourth. The Stags (22-4) then scored three times in the fifth after Joe Palumbo led off with a triple to the right field corner. St. John's made three errors in the inning.

The Cadets scored once in the sixth, and Greg Saville's leadoff homer in the seventh made it a 5-2 game. Cecil walked one, struck out two, then Mike Rozak singled to put runners on the corners. It seemed DeMatha would end the game there, but a misplayed grounder allowed a run to score to make it 5-3 and brought back memories of last week's game that seemed like it would never end.

"That's exactly what I was thinking about," Cecil said. "I didn't want to have another episode of that."

St. John's catcher Eric Weller tags out Matt Campbell of DeMatha during fifth-inning action. The teams split their four meetings this season.