As soon as Georgetown Prep's postgame huddle in shallow right field concluded, Blake Coolidge and Noah Sherman sprinted ahead of their teammates toward the dugout.
The excited junior pitcher and senior catch locked eyes on their desired target: the orange water cooler, which -- if the next portion of their plan went smoothly -- would be dumped on their coach, Chris Rodriguez.
Here was the battery, searching for one final spark to top off an Interstate Athletic Conference championship.
“No, no, no, no, no,” shouted a voice from the dugout. “We need that water for the JV.”
Indeed, the junior varsity team was scheduled to play next. But the botched shower was about the only thing that didn't go according to plan for the Hoyas on a sunny Saturday afternoon in North Bethesda where Georgetown Prep downed St. Albans, 4-1.
“This is amazing. I don't know what to say,” said Coolidge, who recorded the win in 2 2/3 innings of relief. “Last year wasn't good enough. Technically we finished as co-champs, but that final game meant everything to us.”
The Hoyas (21-9) stormed the mound after Coolidge struck out Gabe Roark looking to end the game. They never would have gotten there had it not been for designated hitter Corey Howard's big hit in the fifth.
St. Albans (13-18) starter Danny Swad cruised through the first four innings, holding Prep's high-powered offense in check. In the fifth, however, he lost his pinpoint control and walked back-to-back batters after surrendering two singles. Having walked in a run to tie the game at 1-1, Howard stepped to the plate.
After taking a strike on the outside corner, the stout lefty unloaded on a pitch and sent it off the base of the right-field fence. Bases-clearing double, fist pump, and two and a half innings later, championship.
“Corey maybe has walked twice all year, so I'm not shocked. He might roll his eyes every once in a while when I give him the take sign, but I give him a little bit of freedom and he usually capitalizes. He usually guesses correctly,” Rodriguez said.
Howard, a transfer from St. John's (D.C.) who's also an accomplished pitcher, said the game-winning double was the highlight of his season for a team that beat Landon, 2-0, to advance to the championship. Despite usually being in the field, Howard had no problem adjusting to the role of designated hitter.
“Just step up and hit the ball. That's what DH's do,” he said.
Simple as that.Rodriguez, in his fourth year at the helm, said he was most impressed with his seniors throughout Prep's undefeated run through the IAC schedule.
“The seniors, all year they've done a good job of keeping everybody calm. They haven't panicked,” Rodriguez said. “It's really, I think at this level, trying to keep the guys relaxed. They put so much pressure on themselves and they want to do well.”
Left-hander Cody Mauri started for the Hoyas. The soft-tossing southpaw allowed one run on a double by Roark and was lifted after that hit. Coolidge came on and the first batter he faced, Joe Dobbins, sent a screamer to right. Hoyas right fielder Eric Ramsey had it lined up, but dropped the ball. After picking it up, he fired to shortstop Andrew Frazier, who relayed a strike to the plate to nail Roark. The umpires ruled that Ramsey never caught the ball. Rodriguez came out to argue, to no avail, that Ramsey instead lost the ball on the transfer and the result would have been an inning-ending double play. Coolidge struck the next batter, so it mattered little.
“I'm happy with the way we played. I think we competed and won six of the seven innings.
To compete that hard against an undefeated team and represent our school well, I'm happy with it,” St. Albans coach Jason Larocque.
Georgetown Prep 4, St. Albans 1
St. Albans (13-18) 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 -- 1
Georgetown Prep (21-9) 0 0 0 0 4 0 x -- 4
WP: Blake Coolidge. LP: Danny Swad. 2B: Georgetown Prep: Corey Howard. St. Albans: Gabe Roark. RBI: Georgetown Prep: Corey Howard 3, John Rauber 1. St. Albans: Gabe Roark 1.