By Mark Schremmer
Globe Sports Writer
Even though baseball season is nearing its end, the McAuley Catholic Warriors are just starting to hit midseason form.
Erratic spring weather forced the Warriors to play only 14 games thus far, and the majority of their practices have been indoors.
McAuley (7-7) travels to face Dadeville at 5 p.m. today in the sectional round of the MSHSAA Class 1 playoffs. Dadeville (16-7) enters with 12 more games than its opponent.
“We’re peaking at the right time, I think,” McAuley pitcher Shaw Robertson said. “A lot of teams have a lot more games in than us. I think we’re just starting to get into our groove.”
The Warriors enter on a five-game winning streak, including victories over Exeter, Hurley and Golden City in the district tournament.
“I’m very excited about the momentum we have going into (today’s) game,” McAuley coach Jason McVey said. “I feel like the district championship win will carry over to (today).”
The win over Golden City gave McAuley its first district baseball championship since 1982.
“It means a lot,” McAuley senior second baseman Anthony Calcagno said. “It’s always been a goal for the past four years to get a district title and to finally get it feels really, really good. Plus, we broke a 30-some year streak. It’s great to be part of the group that broke that streak.”
The improvement of McAuley’s bats has been key to the team’s success. McAuley’s 7-8-9 hitters, in particular, came up big during the win over Golden City. No. 9 hitter Cole Lowry recorded the game-winning hit.
“I think the bottom half of the lineup is starting to see the ball better and starting to focus more,” McAuley sophomore catcher Adam Robertson said. “They’re taking their time and are being smarter about their pitches.”
Shaw Robertson and Anthony Bertoncino lead the Warriors at the plate as both have a .636 batting average. Robertson has 20 RBI, while Bertoncino has 17. The duo also both earned wins on the mound at the district tournament.
“It was a good accomplishment,” Bertoncino said. “We’re pretty stoked about it. It’s good to leave a legacy behind.”
McAuley will send Shaw Robertson to the mound against Dadeville. The senior boasts 116 strikeouts and only nine walks in 51 innings pitched. In a 10-0 win over Southwest, Robertson fanned 14 batters and posted a shutout.
“The Southwest game was his coming out and since then he has been pretty unstoppable on the mound,” McVey said.
Along with the fastball, Robertson mixes in a curve, slider and knuckler.
“His breaking pitch has improved over the season,” McVey said. “At the beginning of the season, it was more of a looping curve and now he has a tighter breaking ball. It’s just a world of difference from where he started at.”
Dadeville has a strong offensive team, beating Halfway 13-3 in last week’s district title game. The Bearcats have scored 10 runs or more in 11 games this season.
“They are a contact hitting team,” McVey said. “They put the ball in play. They are not a small ball team, but from what I’ve heard from coaches is that they get a lot of contact.”
McVey said assistant coaches Phil Calcagno and Dalton Cossey have been a big help to the team.
“It’s been a fun time with the boys this year,” he said. “Last year, we got runner-up and nobody really expected us to do that. That has carried over from last year.”
A pep bus will leave the school about 3 p.m. today.
“That’s huge for our school to have enough people wanting to go watch us play,” McVey said. “Taking an extra bus load of kids up an hour and a half from here, that shows great school support. I appreciate the administration for allowing it.”