The muddy MIAA A Conference baseball playoff picture just got a lot murkier Friday thanks to Jack Bahouth.
With two on and no out in the bottom of the seventh inning, Bahouth smacked a 3-ball, 1-strike pitch from relief pitcher Ethan Ruiz to deep left-center field where the ball landed cleanly to score Matthew Callahan from second base, lifting host Mount St. Joseph to a 5-4 victory over No. 9 John Carroll Friday afternoon.
“Anything I could hit, I was coming out of my shoes,” said Bahouth, who finished 1-for-3 with 2 RBI. “I didn’t miss it; it worked out. It went further than I thought, but it was a good feeling. Walk-offs never get old.”
The victory keeps Mount St. Joseph’s (11-9 overall, 7-6 MIAA A) squarely in the playoff hunt for one of the conference’s six playoff positions for play in the upcoming double-elimination tournament while denying the Patriots (12-9, 7-6 MIAA A) the opportunity to lock up a postseason bid.
“We’re in the mix,” said Gaels coach Phil Kraska of the playoff situation. “There are so many different scenarios with the league right now. I’ve never seen it this way in 15 years of coaching that everything’s this close. We can’t control that, but we can control today, and our guys took care of business, and I’m real happy about that.”
The Southwest Baltimore school and John Carroll are tied with Gilman (7-6; defeated St. Mary’s 11-3, on Thursday). Defending champ and top-ranked Archbishop Spalding and sixth-ranked Archbishop Curley (9-4) guaranteed themselves the top two spots with victories Friday.
Five teams - Mount St. Joseph, John Carroll, Gilman, Calvert Hall (6-7) and Loyola (6-7) - are in play for the final four berths going into Monday’s regular season finale.
“I think there’s such parity in the league. It’s anybody’s game on any given day,” said Patriots coach Darren Siler. “Hats off to St. Joe’s. We have to keep focused on winning the day and go get (Calvert Hall) Monday.”
The Gaels struck first on a sacrifice fly by Mason Nemec following a pair of singles by Keegan Plummer (2 for 3, two runs) and Callahan. Callahan and Plummer executed a perfect hit and run to move Plummer to third, setting up Nemec’s RBI flyball to right field.
The Patriots rallied for three runs in the top of the third on three hits, an error, and a miscommunication on coverage of a steal attempt at second base with a runner on third for a 3-1 lead. Frank Adamski and Casey Carpenter drove in two of those runs on singles while Griffin Shirk scored on a stolen base attempt that saw the throw to second sail into center field as Callahan did not cover the bag in time to take the throw.
John Carroll looked poised to increase that lead in the top of the fourth, but after Miguel Leon reached third on a pair of errors and a stolen base, he was stranded by three straight strikeouts by Mount St. Joseph starter Nolan Zenkewicz.
“It’s always tough when you go up, and you can’t put it away,” Siler said. “We had opportunities with runners in scoring position, and we just couldn’t execute and do the job. They took advantage of opportunities they were given, and we didn’t.”
Sparked by Zenkewicz’s shutdown work, the Gaels trimmed the lead to 3-2 in the bottom of the inning on a run-scoring double down the left-field line by Drew Rybinski (two doubles). A nifty play at third base by Adamski, however, stranded two more Gaels in scoring position.
Undeterred, the Gails, taking advantage of a hit batsman, two walks, and a sacrifice fly off the bat of Bahouth, pushed two runs across the play to regain the lead in the bottom of the fifth at 4-3 and chase Patriots starter Brooks Mueller from the game.
John Carroll rallied back with a run on a pinch-hit groundout by Joey Coudon to forge a 4-4 tie in the top of the sixth. The Gaels looked to keep the back-and-forth affair going in the bottom of the sixth with Rybinski doubling and Tyler Holton drawing a walk, but Rybinski was picked off at second and John Carroll relief pitcher Pierce Quinn struck out Plummer looking to end the threat.
Mount St. Joseph’s sophomore relief pitcher Petyon Youngbar then worked a 1-2-3 top of the seventh inning, thanks in part to a leaping grab of a sizzling line drive by Callahan, to set up Bahouth’s heroics.
“We made some mistakes today, but, you know, good teams find a way to win, and we did,” Kraska said. “Peyton Youngbar coming in the seventh and retiring the hardest part of their lineup–that was a huge boost for us right there.”
MOUNT ST. JOSEPH 5, NO. 9 JOHN CARROLL 4
John Carroll 0 0 3 0 0 1 0 - 4 4 1
Mount St. Joseph’s 1 0 0 1 2 0 1 - 5 9 3
WP - Peyton Youngbar; LP: Ethan Ruiz.
2B: MSJ - Drew Rybinski 2.
RBI: John Carroll - Frank Adamski, Casey Carpenter, Joey Coudon; MSJ - Jack Bahouth 2, Mason Nemec, Drew Rybinski.