DeMatha senior third baseman Devin Beverly and his teammates spent a lot of time in the batting cage Saturday and early Sunday before facing McNamara in the second game of the best-of-three Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship series.
Even after the game began Sunday afternoon, the second-ranked Stags looked like they were still in the cage, banging out 17 hits against three pitchers and scoring a run in every inning but one in rolling to a 12-2 win at Shipley Field on the University of Maryland campus.
The victory forces a decisive game against McNamara at 7 p.m. Monday, also at Shipley Field. DeMatha (24-6), in the final for the third time in four years, is vying for its first WCAC title since 2008. McNamara (17-13) is vying for its first WCAC title period.
The fifth-seeded Mustangs had allowed only four runs during their four-game postseason winning streak that included a 5-3 win over No. 2 seed DeMatha on Friday in the first game of the championship series (rain bumped the second game to Sunday). So Game 2 provided quite a contrast: In the third inning, six consecutive Stags singled. In the sixth, four players doubled. All 10 DeMatha players with a plate appearance had at least one hit, and the Stags struck out only once in 40 plate appearances.
“Today in the cages we were a lot more focused than we were [in the game Friday] night,” said Beverly, who had three hits and drove in three runs. “We had our coaches in there giving us tips on what we were doing wrong. We just carried it into the field today. Seeing the ball down. Hitting our pitch. Waiting for a fastball. Just laying off the high stuff and the junk in the dirt.”
“We tried to be Superman on Friday,” DeMatha Coach Sean O’Connor said. “We tried to not be ourselves. We tried to go out and hit four-run home runs and do stuff that was just out of our character. A little bit of yesterday and a little bit of today was to just get them in a rhythm.”
DeMatha sophomore right-hander Jack Alkire sure found his. He turned in another efficient performance in a season full of them, giving up four hits and three walks in six innings, striking out two.
A junior varsity pitcher last year, Alkire figured he would be a varsity reliever this spring. But the DeMatha coaches watched him during the preseason and saw a starter, not a reliever. He’s now 8-1.
“It was kind of a big surprise when Coach told me I was going to start,” said Alkire, who retired seven consecutive batters from the end of the second inning through the fourth. “Our pitching staff, I just thought they were so good, I didn’t really know exactly if I was going to be able to fit into that.”
“We had a couple injuries with seniors, and once the opportunity came in scrimmages, he never gave it back up,” O’Connor said. “He’s 8-1 because the guys make plays behind him. He has that ability to repeatedly throw strikes, and as long as we make plays behind him, he gives us a shot to win.”
The championship game likely will pit McNamara senior left-hander Tayler Stiles, the league’s player of the year, against DeMatha sophomore left-hander Andy Rozylowicz. The Stags were the only WCAC team to beat Stiles this season, and it was with Rozylowicz on the mound.