If it is possible to play with a sense of purpose and still have an up-and-down season, the baseball team at St. Vincent Pallotti High School has done so this spring.
A senior-laden squad — three of the Panthers’ six seniors plan to go on to play in college — Pallotti’s postseason fortunes came down to a must-win situation in Wednesday’s regular season finale. The team was scheduled to visit Friends School in Baltimore, needing a win to clinch a berth in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference playoffs. The game originally was to have been played Tuesday, but was postponed due to rain.
Pallotti (17-9 overall, 8-5 MIAA B Conference) split its two regular season games against MIAA B Conference frontrunner Annapolis Area Christian School. The Panthers also split with another team above them in the standings, Mount Carmel, and dropped an 8-7 decision last week against Severn School, which has the second-best record in the B Conference.
But there have been bright spots as well. Behind the pitching of senior Corey Dirks, the Panthers shut out regional powerhouse Riverdale Baptist, 8-0, last week. Guided by coach Terry Terrill, who has more than 900 wins in his career, Riverdale Baptist is 32-5 this spring, including two wins against AACS.
“We just played our best game of the year,” Pallotti coach Pat Courtemanche said of the Riverdale Baptist win. “Corey Dirks pitched a great game. His curveball was breaking. He was getting ahead in the count and we were getting the leadoff hitter out, and that’s a plus when you’re facing coach Terrill. It shows how good we can play.”
Dirks, who will continue his baseball career next spring at Bethany College in Bethany, W.Va., plays a key role for the Panthers. When he isn’t pitching, he is the starting catcher, and he will continue to play both positions in college.
Dirks is hitting .315 with 18 RBI, and on the mound he is 6-1 with a 3.07 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 55 2/3 innings.
“They’ve told him that he’ll pitch and catch, and you rarely find a college coach who has a player do both,” Courtemanche said. “I put him in a game to play second base once because we needed someone there. He’ll do anything to help the team, he just wants to win so bad.”
Dirks, Matt DeFrank, Rafi Correa, Johnny Maloney and Noah Martin have played summers together with the Maryland Sting, coached by DeFrank’s father Jim DeFrank, a Pallotti assistant.
Maloney, who plans to play next season at Montgomery College, is tied with Dirks for the team lead in wins. He's 6-4 with a 4.11 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 57 innings. He's also one of the team's top hitters with a .400 average and team-highs in RBI (24) and stolen bases (25).
DeFrank, headed to the Community College of Baltimore County-Catonsville, is hitting .405 with 16 RBI and 22 stolen bases. Among the team's other key contributors are second baseman Braulio Ramon (.405 average, 20 RBI), third baseman Nate Spicher (.342, 17 RBI) and first baseman Rafi Correa (.416, 18 RBI).
“All the seniors want to make it far,” Maloney said. “We want to give it 100 percent effort because it’s our last year. Most of the teams that we’ve lost to are teams that we can beat. We just haven’t come out with all of our effort. We need to keep the intensity up.”
“We’re a very good team when we play good, but we can be a little bit streaky,” DeFrank said. “But I think we’re finding it, and we’re getting to where we need to be so we can make a good run. We have to come out like we’re playing Riverdale Baptist every game.”