Terry Bernal/Daily Journal
Carlmont shortstop Mike McGill applies the tag to Burlingame’s Griffin Intrieri on a third-inning steal attempt during the Scots’ 7-3 victory.
Sophomore Connor Loucks was a ball-blocking machine in Carlmont's win Wednesday at Washington Park.
For Carlmont catcher Connor Loucks, the strategy behind the plate is simple.
“Don’t be afraid of the ball,” Loucks said. “Pretend your chest is a glove and absorb everything.”
Loucks did that all day long Wednesday in Carlmont’s 7-3 win at Burlingame. The sophomore may not have had a productive day at the plate. In fact, he made two outs in the same inning when the Scots batted around during a five-run third.
But Loucks was a savage behind the dish. That’s the way Scots starting pitcher Matt Seubert describes his younger battery mate.
“He’s a savage,” Seubert said. “He’s a sophomore but he doesn’t play like one. I love him back there.”
As strong as Seubert was after he settled into a rhythm Wednesday, it was Loucks who wrestled control of the game from behind the plate.
“[Seubert] is not easy to catch, so it’s a lot to throw at [Loucks] … but the kid is just a sponge,” Carlmont pitching coach Bob Sargent said.
Burlingame jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the first. After a one-out single by Andrew Kennedy and a walk to Ryan Kammuller, cleanup hitter Jonathan Engelmann connected for a towering drive to left that one-hopped the ivy wall in the spacious confines of Washington Park. Carlmont caught a break when the ball got momentarily lost in the ivy for a ground-rule double on a play which Kammuller would have easily scored from first base.
Kammuller was sent back to third though, and with two runners in scoring position and one out, Loucks put on a ball-blocking clinic. One of his blocks resulted in Kammuller getting caught in a rundown between third and home for the second out of the inning. Seubert then chalked up his first of five strikeouts on the afternoon to strand Engelmann in scoring position.
“In the beginning I was overthrowing a little bit,” Seubert said. “But you’ve just got to settle down and let your defense work. That’s all you can do.”
Carlmont did exactly that. In addition to Loucks pouncing on over a dozen pitches in the dirt with runners on base throughout, the Scots turned in a pair of defensive gems late in the game to protect a sizeable lead.
The Scots took the lead in the third, sending 10 batters to the plate amid a defensive collapse by Burlingame. The Panthers were charged with two errors in the inning, but it could have easily been four. The rally started with one out when Carlmont’s Julian Billot lifted a pop-up behind second base, but a communication breakdown allowed the ball to fall for a single. After a single by Aaron Albaum, Nick Thompson singled to right to drive home Billot with the tying run. Then an infield groundball off the bat of Kyle Barret turned into a disaster when the ball was booted, and then thrown away, allowing Albaum to plate with the go-ahead run with two errors being charged on the play. Joe Pratt followed with a sacrifice fly to right to bring home Thompson. Vinny Bologna followed with the big hit, singling to drive in Thompson and Barret. Seubert later cashed in with an RBI single, giving Carlmont a 5-1 lead.
In the sixth, the Scots flashed some defense when Billot in left field ranged in to make a nice diving play, robbing Nick Franco of a hit.
In the seventh, the Scots scored two insurance runs with two on and two outs on yet another Burlingame infield error which allowed Thompson and Pratt to score, staking Carlmont to a 7-1 lead.
The insurance runs loomed large as Burlingame rallied against the Carlmont bullpen in its final at-bat. After walks to Mitchell Geiser and Nick Mauro set the table, Griffin Intieri lined a one-out single to load the bases. Kennedy then scorched a long liner to right-center, but Thompson in center field ranged from the opposite gap to make an outstanding diving catch. Kennedy’s fly out went for a sacrifice fly to score Gaiser. And after a walk to Kammuller, Carlmont turned to Pratt to close it out. Pratt surrendered an RBI infield single to Englemann before inducing a grounder to Seubert at shortstop to end it. The save was Pratt’s first of the year. Burlingame right-hander Kevin Maltz took his third consecutive loss to fall to 1-3 despite a 1.17 ERA.
“That’s a big [win],” Loucks said. “This one really picks us up, especially for the M-A game on Friday for first place.”
Loucks is iron man
Loucks has been an iron man behind the plate for Carlmont all season long, starting all but one non-conference game this year. In his first year of varsity ball, Loucks was viewed as a platoon option during the fall, but the sophomore with the 6-foot-1 varsity frame soon won the job outright.
“You could see Loucks, it clicked and he just took it,” Sargent said.
A lifelong catcher, Loucks said he donned the tools of ignorance as a 10 year old and has been in the squat ever since.
“I used to be an infielder but I started getting stone hands,” Loucks said. “So, I kind of moved myself behind the dish.”
Bring on M-A
Meanwhile, Seubert has been a tough-luck pitcher this season. He earned the win Wednesday with six innings of three-hit baseball to improve his record to 2-3. But considering some of the losses he’s endured, the senior right-hander’s record should probably be above the .500 mark. Case in point — March 21 in a 6-3 loss to Menlo-Atherton when he took a 3-0 lead into the sixth inning only to see the Scots implode with Seubert getting tagged for four unearned runs.
“It’s baseball,” Seubert said. “You’re going to lose some the hard way. You’re going to win some the tough way. We’ve got a little bit of season left and we’ve got to finish strong. The past is the past.”
Carlmont left the critical loss to M-A behind by winning four of its last five league games. Coupled with Sacred Heart Prep’s 9-8 win over Menlo Wednesday, the Scots (4-3 in league, 11-9-1 overall) find themselves in a three-way tie with SHP and Menlo for third place in the Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division. They currently trail second-place Half Moon Bay by a half game and, more importantly, are one game back of first-place M-A.
The Scots and the Bears meet Friday in a critical rematch at Carlmont. First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m.