When he looks back on his high school baseball career, DeMatha senior Kevin Fitzmaurice will recall that his most meaningful hit was not a hit at all. It was a routine groundball to second base, in the fifth inning, that only in retrospect feels like a walk-off home run.
Fitzmaurice’s grounder on an 0-2 pitch in the bottom of the fifth resulted in the game’s lone run in the second-ranked Stags’ 1-0 win over Bishop McNamara in the third and decisive game of the teams’ Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship series Monday night at Shipley Field on the Maryland campus.
DeMatha sophomore left-hander Andy Rozylowicz and McNamara senior lefty Tayler Stiles each threw two-hitters, but it was that one manufactured run that resulted in the Stags whooping and hollering after the game and McNamara players holding their heads in their hands after having lost for the second straight year in the championship series after taking a one-game lead in each.
Here’s how it went down in the bottom of the fifth of the scoreless game: DeMatha senior Carl Colbert reached on an infield hit up the third-base line that Stiles fielded but threw late to first. Colbert stole second on a botched hit-and-run, and sophomore Darren Prebble grounded a 1-2 pitch to the right side to move Colbert to third.
Fitzmaurice then grounded an 0-2 outside fastball to McNamara freshman second baseman Kyle Benjamin, whose throw home was on line to senior catcher Corey Fields. Colbert, however, was able to beat the tag, ultimately denying the Mustangs (17-14) their first WCAC title and winning the first for DeMatha (25-6) since 2008.
“Oh my gosh, that’s the most exciting thing I’ve ever done,” Fitzmaurice said amid the Stags’ postgame celebration. “There’s no better feeling than coming up in a scenario and helping your team win. To be able to get that hit and see everybody go crazy after we scored, that’s the probably the best moment of my life.”
“I was gone as soon as I saw the ball was down,” Colbert said of Fitzmaurice’s grounder. “I got the jump that I expected to get. I got under [the tag]. Not by a lot. That was the deciding run. It means the world.”
Or as McNamara Coach Larry Prange said: “They hit it right at our guy. We made a throw. They made a play.”
That was all the support that Rozylowicz needed. Other than a leadoff single to senior Connor Hax to start the game, Rozylowicz did not allow another hit until junior Tyler Gerald reached on a two-out bloop single in the bottom of the seventh with the Stags ready to storm the field. Rozylowicz struck out the last batter to end the game, leaving Hax salivating on deck.
Rozylowicz, who also successfully dueled conference player of the year Stiles during the regular season, struck out five and walked three and was able to laugh off a popup that he misplayed in the top of the fourth.
Looking back on the seven fruitless innings, Prange wondered about an opportunity in the first, when Hax singled, took second on a wild pitch and went to third on a balk with one out. Stiles hit a fly to fairly shallow right field, and Prange decided not to send Hax, with senior cleanup hitter Kevin Kelleher due up next. Kelleher bounced out to first to end the inning.
The Mustangs also had runners on first and second in the third inning but bounced into an inning-ending double play. They also had two runners on in the fourth.
“That’s what good teams do — they take advantage,” Prange said. “We just didn’t get the big hit, but [Rozylowicz] made pitches to get out of it. I feel they went and won the game. We didn’t lose it. They earned it.”
Stiles, who helped the Mustangs win eight playoff games in two years and who was pitching on his future college field, was equally effective. He did not allow a hit until senior Bradley Keith tripled with two outs in the fourth. The only other hit was Colbert’s infield single.
DeMatha’s victory marks the fourth different WCAC champion in the past four years.
“We got one opportunity and we cashed in on it,” said Stags Coach Sean O’Connor, whose team had lost in the 2010 and 2011 finals. “That’s all it was. This is absolutely what their character is: To come through without anybody being a superstar. It’s absolutely what they are.”
WCAC baseball champions
2013: DeMatha 1, McNamara 0 (third game)
2011: St. John’s 10, DeMatha 3 (third game)
2010: Good Counsel 14, DeMatha 3
2009: Paul VI 4, Ireton 3
2008: DeMatha 11, Ireton 3
2007: Paul VI 5, St. John’s 0
2006: Good Counsel 14, Paul VI 12
2005: St. John’s 4, Paul VI 0
2004: DeMatha 5, St. John’s 3
2003: DeMatha 12, St. John’s 5
2002: DeMatha 8, Gonzaga 0
2001: O’Connell 1, Gonzaga 0
2000: Gonzaga 5, St. John’s 3
1999: St. John’s 11, Gonzaga 7
1998: DeMatha 11, St. John’s 5
1997: DeMatha 4, St. John’s 1
1996: DeMatha 11, St. John’s 1
1995: DeMatha 5, St. John’s 3
1994: DeMatha 11, St. John’s 0