On a downright chilly day that felt more like March than May, a pair of top-notch pitchers warmed the hearts of their teammates and coaches by throwing complete-game gems on Wednesday afternoon in East Baltimore.
Top-ranked Archbishop Spalding’s Cody Sharman was almost un-hittable, allowing just three safeties, three walks, five strikeouts and one earned run in six innings.
As good as that effort was by the standout senior southpaw, it couldn’t match what Archbishop Curley’s Nathaniel Welcos did for the No. 6 Friars.
The sophomore right-hander set down the first 20 batters he faced on the windswept diamond before Spalding first baseman Tyler Smith smacked a solid single to left with two outs in the seventh inning to spoil Welcos’ perfect-game bid.
Even so, he and the Friars were able to prevail, 1-0, because of junior catcher Derek Poole’s solo home run in the fourth inning, a towering blast that carried over the 350-foot marker in dead center field.
Poole’s second round-tripper of the season was the only run of the game, helping Curley to gain sole possession of first place in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference despite having an identical 8-4 league mark with the Spalding. The Friars are all alone at the top of the league standings because they swept the season series from the Cavaliers.
Poole, who also jacked a double in the second, started a mild uprising when Sharman walked the next batter, junior shortstop Austin Sealing, with no outs.
Two strikeouts and a harmless fly to left later, Sharman walked off the mound unscathed.
“My first at-bat he got the change-up in and I hit it well,” Poole said. “Second at-bat, I was down 1-2 and he came back with another fastball. It stayed in and I got a jammed a little bit. But I was able to hit it hard enough to get it out.”
Sharman issued back-to-back free passes in the fifth with two outs, but escaped after inducing a grounder to second to end the threat.
Meanwhile, Welcos was mowing down Cavalier hitters with an assortment of off-speed stuff and some well-placed fastballs.
Welcos admitted that earning a perfect game was “in the back of my head” as he took the hill for the final frame.
He added that he had good command of all of his pitches throughout the contest, striking out eight Cavaliers in the process.
“My slider and change-up were locating well,” Welcos said after his first career one-hitter. “And my fastball, I threw it when they weren’t expecting it and I got some swings-and-misses.”
Welcos and his teammates heaved a collective sigh of relief when right fielder Anthony Cerone backpedaled all the way to the fence before ho moved in 10 feet to make the grab on one long Cavalier drive.
“I was scared,” Weeks said. “I saw him (Cerone) coming in and I said ‘Thank God.’”
Both teams were flawless in the field, making play after play look relatively easy.
Curley coach Joe Gaeta said that his team is a “gutsy group” that gets timely hits.
“Derek came up big for us, and he’s been coming up big for us all year,” Gaeta added. “I think he’s the best catcher in the conference. And defensively, we’ve been playing top-notch.”
Spalding coach Joe Palumbo said that Welcos kept the Cavs off-balance all afternoon.
“We could not find consistency at the plate,” he said. “(Welcos) deserves all the credit in the world. And Cody was awesome today. It’s just hard to throw a shutout every time out, but when Cody pitches for us this season we think he’s going to pitch a shutout. But even if he did, we still wouldn’t have won.”
NO. 6 ARCHBISHOP CURLEY 1, NO. 1 ARCHBISHOP SPALDING 0
AS 000 000 0 — 0 1 0
AC 000 100 — 1 3 0
2B: AC-Derrek Poole
HR: AC-Derek Poole
WP: Nathaniel Welcos
LP: Cody Sharman