In baseball, regardless of the level, the statistics usually don't lie, and the Calvert Hall numbers truly tell the story of the Cardinals' dominance throughout a long period of time.
Calvert Hall has won 27 championships (first in the Maryland Scholastic Association before it changed to the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association in the early 1990s). The Cardinals have captured 11 of those titles since 1995, including five in a row from 2005-2009.
Lou Eckerl has been the head coach for 18 seasons and has guided the team to seven championships. Eckerl also won a title at Cardinal Gibbons in 1982 before leaving to come to Calvert Hall and serve as athletic director, a position he's now been in for 37 years.
But Eckerl and his team really want to add to that number. The reason? The Cardinals have not won since 2013, and last year, in the double-elimination MIAA A Conference tournament, they were bounced immediately after losing their first two games. This came one year after losing to Loyola Blakefield in the championship round.
Calvert Hall made the A Conference playoffs in each of its first 17 years under Eckerl, and last year was just the second time the Cardinals have been knocked out after their first two games.
"I talk to people sometimes and say, 'We're like the New York Yankees, and everybody hates us because we win," Eckerl joked. "To me [winning] is a good feeling. I'm extremely proud that people don't hate us -- because we act correctly."
Though baseball has evolved throughout the years, Eckerl and his staff, led by assistant Brooks Kerr (he's been there all 18 seasons), have long taught their team the game the same way: working tirelessly on fundamentals and doing the little things correctly.
"We have a hard-work tradition," Eckerl said. "I just think that we work hard here, and the guys know that. We expect them to come in and have a passion for the game. We ask them, 'What are you going to bring today to make the team better?' That's the competitive edge our guys have."
Shortstop Jose Torres has been a starter for four years with Calvert Hall and echoed many of his coach's sentiments.
Torres is headed for North Carolina State after graduation -- unless something interesting comes up in the 2019 MLB Draft. He said the Cardinals understand there's no magic formula and focus on doing the work to earn their goals. Calvert Hall knows opponents usually bring their "A" game to the field.
"We grind it out," he said. "We work, we work, we work until we perfect our craft. We know we're going to get their best so we try to feed off of the other team's best so we can try to beat them."
John Carroll head coach Darrion Siler is very familiar with the Calvert Hall program and agreed about the importance of hard work, but he said other things go into the mix.
Siler likes their strong leadership, starting with Eckerl and assistants like Kerr plus their state-of-the-art facilities. He also believes winning begets winning, and that's been happening with Calvert Hall for a long time.
"I think that winning is contagious, and confidence breeds confidence," Siler said. "I think they do a very good job with their guys and coaching them up in their fundamentals. They play solid defense. They're a well-coached team and do the little things very well."
Calvert Hall also does what some good teams don't like to do -- the Cardinals have no problem with playing a rough schedule. In fact, they like it.
Eckerl said they played St. John's (Washington, D.C.), Malvern Prep (Pa.), Georgetown Prep (Md.) and took a trip to Florida to play four good teams this season.
"We don't turn anybody down," he said. "Anybody that calls us, we play."
And they've played well this season. They finished the regular season 21-6 overall and 16-2 in the MIAA A Conference, which locked up the top seed and a first-round bye in the league playoffs. The playoffs began May 10, and the championship round, which is where the Cardinals want to find themselves again, is scheduled for May 20 at Harford Community College.
Through the end of the regular season, Calvert Hall had posted a 303-83 record under Eckerl, but the team is still smoldering about the quick exit from last year's playoffs. The Cardinals fell to Gilman and Archbishop Spalding in the first two games and were gone.
That loss gave the team motivation for this season.
"I think it fired us up a lot," Eckerl said. "The underclassmen were very upset that we were two and done. That really hurt."
Torres agreed with his coach that the sudden exit from last year's playoffs may have given the team the kick-start to a good 2019 season.
"That was just everything," Torres said. "We just hate going to the playoffs feeling good and ... getting knocked out. You work all season for something and you don't get it. That gives you all the motivation for this year."
The team already had motivation because of not winning the title since 2013, but the bad ending to last year just gave the Cardinals a little bit more, and that could be bad news for the rest of the A Conference. After all, winning is what Calvert Hall has found a way to do for so many years now.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Calvert Hall
Issue 254: May 2019