Coming off championship victories, many high school teams have to rebuild after losing stellar seniors to graduation.
But even after St. John’s graduated Jack Roberts — the D.C. Gatorade baseball player of the year who helped the Cadets to their fourth straight Washington Catholic Athletic Conference title last spring — the team didn’t need much recovery time. The Cadets, still fully loaded, enjoyed a dominant 7-3 victory over Moose Baseball (a club team that features mostly Wilson players) last week in the D.C. Metro Baseball League title game.
“You never take championships for granted,” said Cadets coach Larry Prange. “This is a good stepping stone for their fall workouts and a good stepping stone for the spring and getting back to the WCAC championship game. They have a long way to go to get back to where they want to go.”
In Thursday night’s championship game, which featured both teams’ 17-year-olds and younger players, Moose’s Robert Cordero provided the first run of the game with an RBI for a 1-0 advantage.
The Cadets quickly answered in the bottom of the first, ripping a double to score a runner and tie the game. Later in the inning, the Cadets loaded the bases and earned a run when they didn’t swing on a ball to draw a walk-in run and a 2-1 lead.
In the second and third innings, the Cadets’ starting pitcher — rising senior Cooper Adams — found his stride and mowed through the batters with ease. Adams allowed just six at-bats in those two innings.
“Cooper Adams is a really good pitcher when he keeps the ball down,” Prange said. “When he plays within himself and is hitting his spots, he’s dominant.”
Adams finished the game with six strikeouts while allowing just four hits.
“I just came out here and did what I was taught,” Adams said. “I went out and pitched and knew the guys behind me had my back. My curveball was working, and my fastball was there. They were chasing it.”
The Cadets offense fed off that momentum and tacked on two more runs off a pair of RBIs for a 4-1 lead after three innings.
St. John’s kept the pressure on with two more scores in the bottom of the fourth inning, ballooning its advantage to 6-1. Rising senior slugger Dylan Hunter led the way with three RBIs.
“I had a lot of guys on base in front of me. I was just trying to drive it out there,” he said. “I had a lot of opportunities out here and was able to capitalize on a few.”
Despite the monster deficit, Moose didn’t go away easily. Nathan Wagner brought in a runner with a fly ball to center field, and then Theo Shapinsky shrugged off a hand injury to rip a ball to center field to bring a runner home and make it a 6-3 game midway through the fifth.
“In the first inning, there was a play where Theo tried to get an extra base and he banged up his hand sliding home,” said Moose coach Trey Polston, a Wilson assistant. “Later he was just trying to bunt and get on base while he worked through it. Then he just swung and got the barrel on it. It was a good piece of hitting.”
Moose was constantly shuffling players around while dealing with injuries.
“We had a few guys missing today,” Polston said. “Our catcher got banged up, and [we] had to move our first baseman. Our guys played hard even out of position.”
The rally would be short-lived. St. John’s got a run back in the bottom of the fifth inning and never allowed another Moose to reach home.
For the Cadets’ rising seniors, it was a chance to try their new roles.
“We have had a lot of good leaders in the past and are following in their footsteps,” said Hunter. “We saw what they did last year, and it’s pretty easy to follow the example they set.”
Prange said his players are benefiting greatly from their summer experience.
“As at team, these guys are going to have to learn how to win championships,” the coach said. “That’s where they improved the most — learning the hard work it takes to win championships.”
The coaches were particularly impressed with Ian Remalia, who Prange believes could be the starting shortstop and possibly help lead the team.
Meanwhile, for Moose, it was the club’s first time fielding a team at the 17U age group in the D.C. Metro League, yet it still managed to make a run all the way to the championship game.
“We had to play into the league,” said Polston. “We had one team in it last year. And now they allowed us three. It was a great season. The guys played really hard. You have to tip your hat to St. John’s — they’re a great program. It’s a great league.”
The coach said that Moose’s most improved player was Charlie Ganote, who also plays for Wilson.
“He got called up from JV at the end of the Wilson season last year and has played with us this summer,” Polston said. “He is playing really well in the infield, outfield and on the mound.”
After strong summer showings by both the WCAC and D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association champions, both Wilson and St. John’s appear to be reloaded for another championship run next spring.