Of all the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference titles won by St. John’s during its current baseball dynasty — a reign extended to three after Saturday’s 3-2 victory against Good Counsel at Nationals Youth Baseball Academy — many of the Cadets felt this year’s championship push could be particularly special.
With five seniors long on playoff experience and a roster deep with talent on the mound and at the plate, the Cadets were eager to test themselves early, namely in the IMG National Classic over spring break.
“We came into the season thinking we’d be the big dogs on top, but then losing our first game and having some tough games in that tournament, even though we finished second, that was really humbling,” Cadets senior Cam Remalia said. “It gave us the right mind-set, though, that we had to work. Without that, we wouldn’t be where we are.”
The uphill battle back to the top of the hotly contested WCAC culminated with No. 6 St. John’s twice staving off a gritty Good Counsel.
In Friday’s opening game, Myles Mensah punctuated a rally in the bottom of the seventh with the decisive RBI. On Saturday, the speedy senior continued his heady play by turning a leadoff walk into a run on Josh Simon’s sacrifice fly in the top of the first inning. Sophomore pitcher Jake Steinberg then shook off a shaky start to strike out four Falcons in the first three innings.
But just as the Cadets (23-8) were settling into a groove, Good Counsel’s Joey Goodwin smacked a solo home run over the left field fence in the third to tie the score at 1.
St. John’s would retake the lead in the next inning, but the Falcons (17-12) again mustered a threat, placing runners at the corners with one out. Unfazed, Steinberg struck out a batter and Mensah threw a rope from shortstop to first to narrowly beat the runner for the third out.
“We kept calm and we didn’t panic,” said Mensah, who went 1 for 3 with a double and a run scored. “Even though you’ve got the music, the fans yelling, the pressure, the only thing we focused on was making plays and winning.”
That approach especially paid off in the sixth inning. In need of an insurance run and with runners in scoring position, Peter Costigan hit an RBI single into shallow center field that brought home Remalia. Good Counsel responded to cut the deficit to one, but the Cadets’ strong defense allowed them to retire six of the Falcons’ final seven batters and secure their first conference three-peat since 1976-1978.
“Just the repetition of the tight games we had this year and in the playoffs, they really made a difference and we were able to keep our composure and make plays,” said Remalia, who went 1 for 1 with a run scored. “To three-peat is something rare, something you’ll cherish forever. It just feels amazing.”