Jackson Coviello never doubted that, eventually, he’d make it home.
The St. John’s junior had watched his first-inning liner plop into the glove of the St. Albans’s center fielder. Then three innings later, Coviello was left stranded on third base under the beaming sun after the Bulldogs pitched their way out a jam during Saturday’s D.C. State Athletic Association baseball championship.
But what seemed to be missed opportunities were simply momentum builders for the Cadets. A two-run double and run scored by Coviello in the fifth inning ignited an offensive flurry for St. John’s, ultimately lifting the Cadets to a 6-3 victory and the inaugural DCSAA tournament title at Nationals Park.
“We could have been frustrated, but we’ve learned to keep doing what we do as a team, and that’s hitting a lot of hard balls into play,” Coviello said. “Eventually, we knew they’d start falling and we’d get some runs.”
The contest began with both teams hurting their own cause, as wild pitches led to one run by St. Albans and two by St. John’s in the first inning.
The Cadets (24-6) appeared on the verge of extending their 2-1 lead after Coviello and Josh Simon opened the fourth inning with consecutive singles to left field. But Bulldogs starter Chase Packard ended the threat by inducing a groundout and striking out two batters.
St. John’s senior Garrett Pearson took the mound in the bottom of the inning and demonstrated the command that opened the door for his recent commitment to Virginia Commonwealth University. After allowing a double, Pearson struck out the next six Bulldogs batters.
“Both their pitcher and ours did a good job of shutting down the other team when there were runners in scoring position,” Cadets Coach Mark Gibbs said. “We knew, though, if we kept plugging away, at some point, those opportunities would turn into runs.”
Beginning with Jake Bernstein’s double, the Cadets tallied four hits in the fifth inning, scoring four runs on a squeeze bunt by A.J. Lee, Coviello’s two-run double and a Bo Williams RBI single to push their lead to 6-1.
But the Bulldogs (19-5) immediately responded with an RBI single by Daniel Armagh and another score on a wild pitch that trimmed the deficit to three runs.
Well aware of St. Albans’s offensive weapons, the Cadets again turned to closer Brodie Leftridge to seal the result. The Tennessee signee came through, retiring three consecutive batters to deliver the Cadets their second title of the season after they won the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship earlier this month.
“I’m glad we got a chance to play in this tournament and have this experience,” Leftridge said. “We’ve played strong as a team all year and this is a nice way to finish the season.”