Cardinal Gibbons won the Big Eight baseball championship with solid hitting, pitching and defense, and that has continued so far in the state 3A tournament.
Noah Campbell went 3-for-4 with a stolen base while Cam McNabb also went 3-for-4, as the Crusaders peppered South Johnston with 13 hits - all singles - for an 8-0 victory in the second round on Saturday.
Paul Todd was the winning pitcher for Gibbons (23-2), allowing three hits while striking out four against a pair of walks in 5 1/3 innings as he prevailed in a nice duel with South starter Cody Allen. The senior Allen went five innings and allowed eight hits, striking out two against a pair of walks and giving up two unearned runs before the Crusaders scored six runs against the South bullpen in the sixth.
“Just having two losses, we’ve been doing this a lot,” Gibbons coach Jim Liebler said. “We’ve won a lot of close games against good teams. The kids are showing a lot of resolve. They’re used to winning, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
“We made a lot of big defensive plays and our pitchers kept throwing strikes. South Johnston is a good team; they would have been near the top of our conference.”
South finished 18-8, going 9-3 under rookie head coach Aaron Parnell after veteran coach and athletic director Keith Durham stepped away from the baseball job in early April.
“The difference was that last inning,” Parnell said. “The ball just went the wrong way for us. They’re good, but it seems like we get everybody’s best game.
“The thing I’ve found that’s most important as head coach is keeping the guys on an even level. We’ve been grinding the whole year and working hard. For me it’s just keeping the program at the level where (Durham) had it.”
Joseph Johnson had two of the Trojans’ three hits, both off Todd, before Jack Yusko came on in the sixth and collected the final five outs.
The Crusaders scored all the runs they would need with a one-out rally in the third. Campbell singled to left and stole second before Stephen Scott walked. Daniel Haberem then reached on an error to third that scored Campbell before Chris Thorburn lined an RBI single to make it 2-0.
“I didn’t have much, really,” Allen said. “I couldn’t find the zone, but the defense was backing me up. I hit enough spots to give up only two runs to a really, really good team. We showed a lot of heart this season and battled through a lot of adversity.”
Meanwhile Todd kept rolling up the zeroes, pitching 1-2-3 innings in the second, third and fourth while double plays ended the first and fifth with no damage. Johnson’s one-out single in the sixth chased him and brought on Yusko for the perfect relief outing.
“My curveball was working well down and away and they seemed to have trouble with it,” the junior Todd said. “I didn’t know much about them going into the game. But our offense and defense was good. Everyone played great. We just don’t have any real weak point. We just need to keep it up.”
Gibbons scored its six runs after one was out in the sixth on five hits, two walks and an error. The biggest hit was a two-single from Logan Washle, who greeted Will Barbour after reliever Colby Jones headed back to the dugout.
“It always feels good to get a win,” the sophomore Campbell said. “(Allen) threw a lot of changeups and kept me off-balance, but when I got my pitch I hit it pretty well.
“We’ve really come together as a team and played really good baseball this season, and we want to keep going.”