Youthful DeMatha overcomes loss of two stars to advance to baseball championship

Friday, May 12, 2017

Sophomore Thomas Keehn pitched DeMatha into the WCAC championship series against St. John's with a two-hit shutout Wednesday. Action gets underway today at 4:30 p.m. Photo courtesy of Ed King

BY CHRIS MCMANES — Despite losing two key players in the conference semifinals this week, the DeMatha baseball team found a way to win the series.

The Stags (21-8) grinded out a 1-0 victory over Good Counsel on Wednesday, May 10, to advance to the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship round. They will face top-seeded St. John’s in a best-of-three series at Washington Nationals Academy in Southeast Washington.

Game one has been postponed until Saturday, May 13, at 6 p.m. The teams split in the regular season, both games decided by one run.

“You have to overcome adversity to get to where you want to go,” DeMatha Coach Sean O’Connor said. “The fact that we finished second in the league and have the chance to win the championship, I couldn’t ask for anything more from a young group of kids.”

Sophomore Thomas Keehn pitched a two-hitter in the Stags’ game-clinching victory over Good Counsel. He struck out nine and walked just two in seven strong innings.

Keehn, who plays shortstop when not pitching, threw first-pitch strikes to 20 of the 27 batters he faced. He set the Falcons down 1-2-3 in the final frame.

“I think he was a little nervous early, but he settled down,” O’Connor said. “I was impressed with, despite him not [getting a base hit,] he was able to go out and perform well on the mound.”

DeMatha scored the game’s only run in the bottom of the second. Junior Timmy Pyne led off with a double over the center fielder’s head. He worked his way to third base, and with Keehn batting, raced home on a passed ball.

Pyne, whose brother, Will, plays for Landmark Conference regular-season champion Catholic University, was the only player with two hits Wednesday. The junior also walked once.

The Stags turned in a stellar defensive effort against Good Counsel. Third baseman Darius Gilliam committed the team’s only error in the three games in Wednesday’s first inning. He more than made up for it in the fourth by throwing out three straight runners. Two of the plays came on hard-hit balls. He notched his fourth assist in a row the next inning with a backhand stop.

Gilliam, a junior who also pitches, said his coaches and teammates encouraged him to put his fielding gaffe behind him.

“I had all my confidence back and knew I could do it,” he said.

Keehn and his teammates had to play the final two games of the Good Counsel series without first-team All-WCAC outfielder Trendon Craig. The junior suffered damage to his left anterior cruciate ligament and medial meniscus in DeMatha’s 5-3 victory over the Falcons on Monday. He should be ready to play again by next February.

“Trendon is a big part of our team,” Gilliam said. “Losing him makes us more determined to win.”

Sophomore catcher Clark Burroughs, who splits time with freshman Jack Bulger, sustained a hamstring injury early in the Stags’ 9-3 loss at Good Counsel on Tuesday. Burroughs hit a home run Monday and will not play today.

“To come out and find a way to win after having two guys go out of our lineup,” O’Connor said, “that’s impressive.”

The Stags, who lost in the first round of the 2016 WCAC Tournament, were stoked after defeating the Falcons. They are looking forward to meeting three-time reigning champion St. John’s. DeMatha last won it in 2013.

“It feels awesome,” Keehn said after his pitching gem. “Hopefully we can win it.”

Chris McManes is an assistant freshman baseball coach at DeMatha.