Youthful DeMatha baseball earns opportunity to meet Maryland governor

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

DeMatha Coach Sean O'Connor (left) instructs his team, which went on to finish fourth in the Washington area. Photo courtesy of Chris McManes

BY CHRIS MCMANES — The DeMatha baseball team concluded its season in Annapolis by winning the Maryland State Private School Championship. The title gives the Stags the opportunity to return to the Maryland capital.

The winner of the 10th annual event has for the past two years received an invitation to meet Gov. Larry Hogan (R) at the State House. This will be DeMatha’s first visit.

So as much as Stags Coach Sean O’Connor encourages his players to continue sharpening their baseball skills, he wants them to take at least one day off this summer.

“For some of our players, meeting a governor will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” O’Connor said. “I’m planning to attend. I hope they are, too.”

The occasion should be especially meaningful for the Stags and the state’s highest elected official. Hogan attended DeMatha for two years (1970-72) before his parents divorced. He moved with his mother to Florida and graduated from Father Lopez Catholic High School in Daytona Beach in 1974. He has spoken fondly of his time at DeMatha.

For security reasons, the exact date of the visit is not released beforehand.

The Stags showed tremendous pitching in the one-day tournament at the U.S. Naval Academy. Junior Marcus Brown pitched a three-hitter in game one, a 3-0 victory over Avalon (Potomac, Md.). He struck out four and didn’t walk a batter.

Sophomore Thomas Keehn threw a two-hitter in the title game, a 3-0 win over Archbishop Spalding (Severn, Md.). He recorded one walk and seven strikeouts.

DeMatha was playing for the first time since losing the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) championship series to St. John’s at Washington Nationals Academy. The Cadets have captured the crown four years in a row. The Stags last won it in 2013.

Whereas St. John’s depended heavily on seniors, DeMatha’s top players were all sophomores, juniors and freshmen. Keehn, who has pledged to play for Duke, was named honorable mention All-Met. Freshman catcher Jack Bulger earned second-team honors. Fellow freshman Alex Greene has already committed to play at Virginia.

“I’m very excited for next season,” Keehn said. “We have tons of talent, and we love each other. I think it’s going to be a great season next year.”

The Stags made major strides in 2017. They finished 23-10 and No. 4 in The Washington Post’s final rankings. They won just 14 games in 2016 and lost in the first round of the WCAC Tournament. Players are looking to spend more time playing and practicing together this summer.

“We’re going to try to do whatever we can do to gain more chemistry and more playing time with each other to win that WCAC championship,” Keehn said.

DeMatha’s JV and freshman baseball teams also did well this year with new coaching staffs. The freshmen, under Jimmy Peyton, finished 7-4. Mike Higginbotham coached the JV to a 12-6 record.

O’Connor, who will be entering his 11th  season as head coach at his alma mater, knows the varsity will face high expectations next year. But first up is a trip to the Maryland state capital to meet Gov. Hogan.

“I haven’t met him, but I know he went to DeMatha for two years,” O’Connor said. “It will be a great experience.”

Chris McManes (mick-maynz) is an assistant freshman baseball coach at DeMatha.