Archbishop Spalding’s baseball team began its defense of the MIAA A Conference crown Friday night the same way it captured it: dominant pitching and clutch hitting.

The top-ranked Cavaliers posted a commanding 4-0 victory against host and fourth-ranked Calvert Hall behind a combined one-hitter from starter Parker Thomas and reliever Jake Yeager that held up an early three-run advantage under rainy and cold conditions in Towson.

“I think we are a talented team, and I always just kind of go with the idea that we’re talented, but can we be tough, too?,” Cavaliers coach Joe Palumbo said. “Because talented and tough is a tough combination to beat. Coming away with a win against a very competitive team that plays us tough all the time shows a lot of toughness of our team. That combo is going to be good for us moving forward.”

The Cavaliers earned their first league title since 2016 through a complete-game effort by Eddie Sargent (UMBC) in the team’s 7-2 championship victory against John Caroll last May at Harford Community College.

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Fast forward to Friday night at Crispino Stadium and Spalding (4-0 overall, 1-0 MIAA A) opened the 2023 league campaign, scoring the only two runs it would need in the top of the first inning on a sacrifice fly by Ethan McNally to score leadoff batter Cody Sharman and a double to right center field by Jack McNally to bring home Tyler Smith. Sharman and Smith reached base via free passes.

“Just getting out to an early lead, it was huge,” said Sharman, who went 1 for 3 with a run, and a run batted in. “A real momentum switch. I know I felt it in the dugout. The whole presence, the whole vibe just felt good. It really helped Parker on the mound. I think it carried out throughout the game and helped us come out with a `W.’”

Spalding’s advantage swelled to three in the top of the second on a single to center field off the bat of Sharman following a double to left field by Nathan Wines to chase Cardinals starter Ryan Seifert from the game in favor of sophomore right-hander Nathan Rodriguez. Calvert Hall threatened in the bottom of the second as EJ Hankerson reached second on a dropped third strike and throwing error, but the East Carolina University-bound Parker struck out the side to end the inning.

Parker, last spring’s VSN’s Pitcher of the Year, worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the third as well with a pair of strikeouts on a pair of nasty breaking pitches to keep the Cardinals off the scoreboard. Calvert Hall had loaded the bases on a pair of walks and an error on a flyball to center field.

“I came out there with the mindset from last year; I’m going to carry it over and just be myself and just be dominant the best I can,” said Parker, who struck out 12 and did not allow a hit in his five innings of work. “I love my coaches. They believe in me every step of the way. When I got in a jam, they looked at me (and said): `Hey, bunker down and be you.’ That’s what I did.

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I just try to attack it the best I can. A cold, rainy night, I wasn’t feeling my best, but I did my best, and we came out on top. I’m proud of that.”

Rodriguez did his own Houdini act in the top of the fourth, standing two runners with a punch out of a looking Parker on a full count with runners on the corners. Following a similar theme, Parker worked around a walk and an error in the fourth by fanning the side to preserve the shutout. Brennan Inscoe then padded the Spalding lead to 4-0 in the fifth on a 2-out single up the middle to score pinch runner Dillon Stolzfus.

Yeager closed out the contest with two shutout innings in relief, allowing a single hit with three strikeouts, including two in the seventh inning.

“I want to thank the MIAA for having us start with Spalding for the fourth year in a row,” joked Cardinals first-year coach Brooks Kerr, whose squad slipped to 4-4, 0-1 in the MIAA A. “We’ve faced some tough pitching. We went down to Florida for that reason. We saw some good pitching down there. I thought we played well today, but (Thomas is) good. That’s why there are major league scouts in the stands. He’s good, and they’re good.

We’ve got to get better at the plate. I think when that starts to happen, I think we’re with them. I don’t think we take a back seat to anybody, and I think we’re going to be there. We need to be better at the plate.”

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Archbishop Spalding 2 1 0 0 1 0 0 - 4 7 2

Calvert Hall 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 - 0 1 0

WP - Thomas. LP - Seifert. 2B: AS - Wines, J. McNally. RBI: AS - Sharman, E. McNally, J. McNally, Merrit.