Throughout game three — the decisive game — of the Interstate Athletic Conference baseball championship series at Georgetown Prep, St. Albans first baseman Ethan Roth was heckled by Little Hoyas fans.
Rather than letting them get into his head, Roth initially surprised the hecklers by bantering with them in the early going. But when the game entered the final critical innings, Roth let his play do the talking, as he notched a hit late in the game and made several tagouts at first base.
“I’ve played hockey and baseball; I’ve had the same kids chirping at me. It rattles some people, but it really motivates me,” Roth said.
The game was a snapshot of the rivalry between the two schools, and it exemplified the way the Bulldogs shrugged off the Little Hoyas. Georgetown Prep came into the championship series with a perfect 10-0 in league play until St. Albans defeated it 5-2 to win its first IAC crown since 2014.
“I’ve wanted it since I was in fourth grade at St. Albans — winning an IAC championship senior year,” said Roth. “The last time St. Albans did this, we were all in lower school or on JV.”
For St. Albans, it was a long journey that started with a sluggish start to the season. The Bulldogs lost their first three games of the year and finished 5-5 in IAC play during the regular season — including a pair of losses to Georgetown Prep.
“We had a mediocre regular season, and we were hoping something special could happen in the playoffs,” said St. Albans captain Sam Velleca.
The Bulldogs went on to win six of their last 10 games to hit their stride, and picked up further momentum in the IAC playoffs by knocking off St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes and Landon to earn a series with the Little Hoyas for the crown.
St. Albans beat Prep 4-2 in the first game of the series, allowing the Bulldogs to see that the Little Hoyas were not invincible.
“It took us three games, but it was so sweet to get it done,” Drew Posner said. “We lost to them twice this season. Once we beat them in game one, it was all we needed. We knew we could do it.”
Roth helped the Bulldogs jump on the board early when he knocked in an RBI to put St. Albans ahead 1-0. But the Little Hoyas battled back to tie the game at 2-2 by the end of the fourth inning.
The Bulldogs took the lead for good in the top of the fifth. St. Albans sophomore pitcher Clark Klitenic drove in a run with a hard ground ball. One batter later, John Dahlberg came home following great base-running. The Bulldogs did strand several runners, but the team didn’t let the missed opportunity faze them.
“For a team that has struggled to score runs this year and the amount of runners we have stranded, to be able to score early really helps us,” said Bulldogs coach R.J. Johnsen.
On the mound, Klitenic threw a complete game, giving up two runs and seven hits while striking out three. He pushed through the Little Hoyas lineup in the bottom of the fifth and sixth innings.
“From the day he stepped on campus, he has been a character guy and leader,” Johnsen said. “He was the first freshman we had start IAC games for us. His stuff has always been there.”
In the seventh, the Bulldogs offense added an insurance run when Velleca scored to take a 5-2 lead. The St. Albans defense stood tall in the bottom of the seventh inning, ending the game with just one hit in the final stanza.