It took two tries, but the Archbishop Spalding baseball team is once again champion of the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference.
The Cavaliers successfully defended their championship, winning a third consecutive conference title on May 25 at Loyola Blakefield in Baltimore by defeating Gilman 5-3 in the winner-take-all final of the double-elimination tournament.
Spalding (27-5), the winner of the tournament’s winner’s bracket via victories over Gilman and Calvert Hall in the playoff’s opening rounds, fell 6-5 to the Greyhounds (18-13) one night prior at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen in the playoff’s penultimate meeting.
Senior starting pitcher Zach Thompson assured that the Cavaliers didn’t falter twice in a row, however, registering a complete-game victory behind doubles by LaVale Hodges, Barrett Smith, Carter Sears and Tyler Blohm, a single and an RBI triple by David Harding and an RBI single by Billy Godrick.
It is the third straight conference championship for Spalding and fourth overall (2011).
There is precedent for Spalding’s dynasty: Calvert Hall won five straight conference titles between 2005 and 2009 and seven of the nine titles between 2005 and 2013.
But that was then. The Cavaliers have been dominant throughout their current reign, going 75-13 over the past three years combined.
Fourth-year head coach Joe Palumbo, who coaches the team with assistants Rob Medoff, Juan Palacios and T.J. Crawford, said the composite effort of the student-athletes, coaches and administration has enabled the program to ascend to such lofty heights over the past three seasons.
“A lot goes into building a program to be able to do what we’ve done,” said Palumbo. “Our coaching staff at all levels, focusing on development, the freshmen and JV levels so the guys are ready to play when they get to the varsity level. A good culture set up by good players that are willing to work hard and sacrifice time with friends and sacrifice playing time at times, sacrifice recognition for other guys, just a really close group. Especially the seniors who have played together for a really long time going back to youth baseball, so there’s great camaraderie.”
Several of those seniors are local to Severna Park and have been sharing success on the baseball diamond for years. Blohm, Godrick, Sears, Harding, Smith, Drew Hunt and Nick Ashbeck grew up playing Green Hornets baseball and were on a dominant 14U select team that went 63-5 in the summer of 2012.
Four of the seniors plan to continue their baseball careers at the next level. Blohm (Maryland), Godrick (Fordham), Sears (James Madison) and Harding (Princeton) are all joining high-level programs next year.
Palumbo stressed that the student-athletes have been good representatives of the school and community in addition to their success on the field.
“On and off the field you’ve got to do things the right way, that’s been our culture the past few years,” he said.
The 2016 MIAA A Conference champion Archbishop Spalding baseball players are Nicholas Ashbeck, Tyler Blohm, Kristofer Burkowski, Ashton Engebretsen, Evan Fochtman, Brendan Foley, Jordan Geber, Chester Godrick, William Godrick, David Harding, LaVale Hodges, Andrew Hunt, Nicholas Kemp, Joseph LaMore, Matthew McGinty, Matthew McHale, Timothy O’Farrell, Fletcher Pack, Jack Schubert, Carter Sears, Barrett Smith, Zachary Thompson, Jack Triolo, Nicholas Vermillion and Cameron Webb. The team is coached by Joe Palumbo, Rob Medoff, Juan Palacios and T.J. Crawford. The student managers are Austin Maenner, Andrew Ladd and Grace Walther.