MARPLE — An apologetic Matt McGraw couldn't quite articulate what had just happened to the Cardinal O'Hara baseball team Monday.
Even after an extended team huddle on the outfield grass, few of his teammates were much more eloquent when it came time to summing up their 4-3 Catholic League Red Division loss to Archbishop Ryan.
The Lions did a lot of things you'd expect a winning team to do — they outhit their opponent, they got solid starting pitching, they threatened time and again to pull in front or put the game out of reach.
But they also made far too many of the miscues that can't be associated with the winning brand of baseball the Lions have sought to play on a regular basis this season. They committed five errors, a full complement of one apiece for all the infielders sans starting pitcher Will Latcham. They had several other mistakes — poor decisions or bad throws to a base, plays they couldn't quite finish to get outs — that don't show up in the box score.
And most crippling, they left 11 runners on base, seven in scoring positions, squandering their chances in the first three innings when hits were abundant, then struggling to string together base knocks once Ryan starter Tom Derer settled in.
Those struggles were epitomized in the final two innings as they sought to peg back the Ryan four-spot in the top of the fourth inning furnished by three errors and two walks that ultimately made the difference.
In the sixth, they managed to push across a run when eight-hitter Colin McGuire walked, advanced to second on a wild pitch and scored on Bill Johnson's RBI single with none out. But then the top of the order went quietly, curtailing the threat.
In the seventh, O'Hara (9-6, 7-5) got a second life at a two-out rally when Dan Dwyer singled and Nick Newman struck out, but a wild pitch allowed him to reach when Ryan catcher Josh Lopez hesitated in throwing to first base. But McGuire couldn't cash in, grounding to shortstop for one of nine groundball outs induced by Derer.
"We started off hot, and then we just cooled down in the middle innings,' Dwyer said. "We went down two runs late in the game, and we had to pick it back up and fight through it. We had first and third at the end, and we just couldn't pull through.'
Derer certainly had a hand in all those runners left stranded, as well as in O'Hara going 3-for-14 with runners in scoring position.
He didn't look long for the game, giving up seven hits on 63 pitches through three innings. But he battled, got the outs when he needed them, then waited for his offense. When his fellow Raiders (7-8, 5-7) turned it on, Derer was able to put it in cruise control, recording seven straight outs in the middle innings.
"I stopped throwing first-pitch fastball,' said Derer, who improved to 3-1. "I think early in the game, I kept it in the middle of the plate, and toward the end of the game, I kept moving it in and out and changing speeds. ... I think later, I knew who couldn't hit the curveball and threw that first to get ahead and stay ahead and move the ball in and out.'
It also helped that the Raider bats woke up in the fourth. After Latcham was dominant in allowing just one walk and one infield hit through the first turn of the order, Bob Romano drew a one-out walk in the fourth, then Derer reached on an error.
That's when the Raiders decided they would have to force the issue to knock Latcham from his groove.
"We knew if you get on base and could start getting some things done, you could get into his head and he starts getting out of it,' Derer said of Latcham. "You could see he was throwing his hat and doesn't have a good mentality when guys start getting on. That's what we were doing. They were making mistakes behind him, and we were capitalizing on it.'
They got Derer moving on a double-steal attempt, and when the throw to second trickled toward the outfield, Romano scampered home. A couple more mistakes extended the inning for an RBI single for Lopez, then third baseman Tyler DiMatteo delivered a two-run single.
"I saw the curveball the first time he threw it in the at-bat, and I knew he was going to throw it to me again because he got me with it the first time,' DiMatteo said. "So I was just looking for it, weight back and drove it into left-center field.'
"I just threw strikes, and I guess they picked up on it,' said Latcham, who went the distance with nine strikeouts. "A couple of walks, and then a couple of hits, and that's what happens.'
That was all Derer needed. He survived the first, aided by McGraw getting caught stealing third after an RBI double. Chris Salvey bounced out to short in the second with the bases loaded, and Dwyer's RBI double in the third was all that came of a would-be rally when McGuire and Johnson struck out looking with men on the corners.
Those near misses left O'Hara with plenty to talk about in the post-game huddle ... and a few questions to ask moving forward.
"I think we're fine,' Latcham said. "We just have to try to put stuff behind us, stop being selfish, play for one another. We know what we can do. We should be the best team in this league, but we've just got to play like it.'