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Spalding baseball shuts out Loyola Blakefield, 12-0, in MIAA semi

Archbishop Spalding baseball has a way of deflating opponents – and it can be done in a hurry.

In Monday’s opening game of the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference semifinal series against visiting Loyola Blakefield, the No. 1 Cavaliers got two big offensive innings and a dominant pitching performance from top prospect Jake Yeager en route to a 12-0 win over the No. 8 Dons in a game that ended after five innings due to the mercy rule.

The best-of-three series heads to Loyola on Tuesday for the second game, with first pitch at 4 p.m.

The Cavaliers (24-4) sent 11 batters to the plate in a five-run second inning against Dons’ ace Joe Nottingham, who posted a 1-2-3 first inning. The Cavaliers’ second featured a two-run single by Carver Salazar, a runscoring double by Cruz Luna and a well-executed safety squeeze by Sam Houchens that scored another. With Yeager in complete control — he allowed one hit and struck out 10 in five innings — the Cavaliers went around a second time in a seven-run fourth inning.

“We did a lot of different things today to put pressure on them,” Spalding coach Joe Palumbo said. “(This season) we have sometimes managed to get on top of teams, but we have not always been able to eliminate them. Today we showed the kind of killer instinct you need in the play-offs to finish as champions.”

With Yeager and Nottingham taking the ball for their respective teams, that expectation was a closely contested playoff opener. That’s what it looked like – for one inning.

The Dons got their only hit in the first inning when Colby Shilling hit a sharp one-out single and Ryan Clary walked with two outs before Yeager got Jake Hauk to look at a third strike to end the inning. Nottingham did its part with a 1-2-3 bottom of the first inning with two strikeouts. After Yeager struck out the top of the second, the Cavaliers put a premium on every at-bat.

Theo Coughlin, who went 2-for-2 with a walk, scored two runs and had another in, led off with a single up the middle. Drew Emrich was hit by a pitch, then Jack McNally walked to load the bases. Carson Merritt sent a ball up the middle, then shortstop Shilling put on a glove but couldn’t get an out to score Coughlin with the game’s first run. Salazar knocked in the next two, Houchens laid down the bunt and Luna hit the double for the 5-0 lead.

It was enough for Yeager, who kept the Dons guessing with a nasty mix of his fastball, curveball and slider.

“My stuff just worked today,” he said. “Adrenaline played a big role in that. I just went out there, trusting my defense, throwing the ball and not really thinking much, and that was my goal. You just feel like your body is in control, you don’t have to think too much. I love that feeling; it is like a flow state.”

Palumbo appreciated the timely execution.