Story by Max Niles '18
IAC Champs. That’s all there is to it. After three months of grinding in practice, unexpected losses, and glorious victories, we seized the day and won the IAC at Georgetown Prep. But the championship was not unexpected; the #IACin17 movement was strong before the season started. After losing to St. Stephen's & St. Agnes School in a 1-0 game in the quarterfinals of the IAC playoffs last year, the seniors came into this year hungry for their first IAC. Our only goal was to win that IAC against Prep and the entire season was devoted to it. Our season started in the middle of February for a brutal three weeks of cold practice leading up to our first scrimmage against Maret. After the scrimmage against Maret, we played against St. John's and St. Mary’s School of Annapolis and lost both games in chilling temperatures. We headed to Florida unsure of how the team was shaping up after what ended up being two blowout losses. The spring break trip to Florida was another addition to the journey of this season. We arrived in Florida playing some of our worst baseball all year and it showed as we got mercy ruled twice and lost some truly disappointing games. But the trip ended on a high note as we battled for a 2-1 victory in an extra-inning duel under the lights in the small town of Okeechobee. We celebrated by eating their delicious barbecue.
The season did not get easier after the spring break trip as we stayed inconsistent. After Florida, our record was 10-11 in all of our games and 5-5 in the IAC. Some games were great like our two game sweep of Landon, our 8-1 thrashing of Episcopal, and a valiant doubleheader against Riverdale Baptist, the number one team in the area, but others were head-scratchers, such as our losses to St. Stephen's, Episcopal, and Bullis. So, we entered the IAC playoffs as a three seed—angry we did not get home field advantage—facing a third straight matchup with St. Stephens & St. Agnes. We beat them for the second time that week though, thanks to the late-game heroics of Drew Posner ‘17 and the walk-off double by James Howe ‘18.
That win propelled us to an offensive explosion against Landon in which we beat the Bears 8-1. The entire offense contributed, Clark Klitenic ‘19 shut down the Landon offense, and we were set for a three-game championship series against Georgetown Prep. Prep beat us 5-1 and 4-1 in our regular season matchups and headed into the first game of the series on an eleven game winning streak. However, it did not matter. In the first game of the series, we marched into Georgetown Prep riding the pitching heroics of Ethan Roth ‘17 and were leading 4-0 after three innings. Prep scored two unearned runs on an error, but never mustered up any more offense in the game. As a result, we stole the first game of the series and stunned the Hoyas.
Two days later, we suddenly had the chance to win the IAC in front of our fans in a crushing sweep. But the win was not in the cards for that day. The rain came down in a game that felt more like the snowy St. Mary’s game than a normal day game. Andrew Keane ‘17 did not have his best stuff on the bump and Prep chugged along, scoring one run an inning until we were down 5-0 in the fifth inning. Roth hit an RBI double to score Klitenic and for a moment there was hope, but despite the best efforts of the team, and a stellar relief appearance from Michael Gasper ‘17, we lost 6-1.
Just like that our season came down to one game. We headed back out to Georgetown Prep a week after the first game thanks to some questionable rescheduling on Prep’s side. Luckily, game three was different from game two. In the first inning, Roth ’17 hit an RBI single to score Posner and we were in business. Prep answered back to tie the game 1-1, but with our fan section’s chirps booming, all the momentum was on our side. After two scoreless innings, we had the bases loaded with no outs in the fourth. Howe ‘18 hit into a fielder’s choice to score Roth and we had the lead again. Just like in the first inning, Prep responded to tie the game 2-2. The fifth inning is where we won the game. Austin Burgess ‘18 led off with a double, Klitenic scored him on a single and Posner hit an RBI to make the game 4-2. Prep did not answer from there thanks to Klitenic’s pitching. In the bottom of the seventh, after 105 pitches, Klitenic got the Prep catcher to ground out to Nick Beatrice ‘19 who threw the ball to Ethan Roth to clinch the 5-2 victory. We rushed from the field and the dugout and dogpiled on Klitenic and Sam Velleca ‘17, despite his shoulder injury. Then, the BEEF club ran onto the field to celebrate our win with us. It was over, everything we had been doing for the past three months was validated. We had exorcised our Prep demons and were on the top of the world. We gave head coach RJ Johnsen a Gatorade bath and left Prep with the greatest feeling of pride we’ve ever had.
If only that had been the final moment of our season. We had to come back for the DCSAA championship, in which we lost to Wilson 4-2 in a crushing semifinal defeat that robbed us of playing in Nats Park. Despite the empty feeling of the seniors losing their last baseball game in a Bulldogs uniform, we’d all do it again. Rushing onto the field was the best moment I’ve had at St. Albans and winning that game with this team means the world to me. I love this team and our wonderful coaches, and we did it. To quote Coach Johnsen “You all made it happen. That banner is going to be up in the gym forever, and you all can tell your children that you guys won an IAC championship.”
Thanks to our wonderful coaches (Coach Johnsen, Assistant Headmaster Baad, Coach Pfohl, and Coach Bankston) for this season, and, although it wasn’t easy,we did it. Also, I’d like to thank our parents and the fans for coming out and supporting us. We could not have done it without out you all. Now let's get it done next year. #IACin18.