Paced by six early runs, a strong pitching performance by Niko Sanchez and a stellar defensive effort, the Avalon School baseball team captured its first Old Line Baseball Conference tournament title Saturday with a 6-2 victory against top-seeded host The Heights.
“We've won states [the Maryland Private School B Tournament] three times but this is the first time we won the conference,” said Black Knights coach Patrick Duffy, whose team has reached the conference final every year of the Old Line Baseball Conference's five-year existence. “It was a really big deal for us. In years past, we sort of focused on the state championship but this year, it was different. The kids wanted the conference championship.”
The Black Knights (19-11) scored all six of their runs in the first two innings, including four in the first on run-scoring singles by Mike Smith (2 for 4, 3 RBI), Mike Brunvoll (1-4) and Matt Hand (1-3) and an error on a ground ball off the bat of Sanchez. Smith added a two-run home run, his fourth homer of the season in the second inning to supply Sanchez with all the runs he would need.
Sanchez (5-2 record) allowed two runs on seven hits with three strikeouts. He retired the final eight batters of the game, including back-to-back strikeouts of Brady Hall and Michael Buono to end the contest. The Avalon defense also turned four double plays in the game. The performance lowered Sanchez's earned run average to less than 2.00.
“The kids were fired up when we found out the game wasn't going to be at a neutral site,” said Duffy, whose team was swept by The Heights (20-8) during the regular season. “It lit a fire under them. They were pretty disappointed that they were going back to The Heights. They used it as motivation.”
Will Marvin and Sam Weber drove in both runs for the Cavaliers in the second and fourth innings. Nick McCabe collected two hits in the losing effort. Jack Linehan (4-3, 2.81 ERA), the OLBC's Player of the Year, took the loss in a complete-game effort. He allowed six runs, four earned, with four strikeouts.
Both teams will compete in this week's Maryland State Private School B Tournament.
Avalon 6, The Heights 2
Avalon (19-11) 4 2 0 0 0 0 0 — 6 12 1
The Heights (20-8) 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 — 2 7 4
WP — Niko Sanchez (5-2). LP — Jake Linehan (4-3). 2B: Avalon — Anthony Durbin. HR: Avalon — Mike Smith. RBI: Avalon — Mike Smith 3, Niko Sanchez, Mike Brunvoll, Matt Hand; The Heights — Will Marvin, Sam Weber.