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.
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.”