He needn't have worried.
Behind stellar pitching from senior ace Derrick Mahlum and an explosive offense that put up 13 runs in just four innings, the Wildcats pounded Cedarcrest 13-0 on Wednesday in the team's final regular-season home game.
The win helped ease the disappointment from Monday's 3-1 loss to Cedarcrest, which snapped a 16-game Archbishop Murphy winning streak.
"There's no doubt, we came out to play today," Taloff said. "This time of year is always very difficult, especially when you have eight seniors on your team. They've got proms, they've got graduation, they've got parties and they've got so many things going on that can take away their focus.
"But these guys came out today and really did what they needed to do. They were ready to go," he said.
With the victory, Archbishop Murphy clinched the Cascade Conference championship for the fifth time in Taloff's five seasons as head coach. The 17-2 Wildcats (16-1 in league) will wrap up their regular season Friday at Cedarcrest and then head into the playoffs, where they will try to repeat last year's Class 2A state title.
"Winning the league is a tough thing to do and we've done it every year I've been here, so that's an accomplishment," said senior first baseman Zander Clouse. "But like our coach says, we're trying to get four championships _ conference, districts, regionals and then state.
"It's really cool to win league," he added, "but a state championship is the bigger goal for us."
If the Wildcats continue to play like they did on Wednesday, their chances for a repeat state title are strong indeed. They pounded out 11 hits in four innings, including three for extra bases, and put 11 other runners aboard via a combination of walks, hit batters and a Cedarcrest error.
Among the team's many offensive heroes were Clouse, who was 3-for-3 with a double, a run and three RBI; catcher Alex Galgano, who was 2-for-2 with a pair of doubles, two runs and two RBI; and shortstop Trevor Morrison, who was 2-for-2 with two walks, three runs, two RBI and a stolen base.
In addition, pinch-hitter Ryan Dorney got one at-bat and made the most of it, launching a long two-run home run to right field in the fourth inning.
Mahlum, meanwhile, did his part on the mound, giving up a single in each of the first two innings, but allowing no other base runners in his five innings (the game was halted by the 10-run rule). He got stronger as the game went on and finished with six strikeouts, including five of the final six batters he faced.
"He was focused," Taloff said. "He kept the ball down, worked the corners, and threw his curve ball and (change-up) at the perfect opportune times. … He came out ready to go, and that's just what you want from a senior who's capable of dominating a playoff team."
"I felt confident out on the mound," said Mahlum, who improved his season record to 8-0. "It's the last game here for us seniors, and I just wanted to make the best of it. I started out a little slow, but at the end I felt I had pretty good stuff."
With the league title wrapped up and with the playoffs just ahead, Mahlum likes his team's chances "if we stay confident and play like we did today." A repeat state championship "won't be easy," he added, "but I think we have a good chance."
At Archbishop Murphy H.S.
Cedarcrest 000 00 --0 2 1
Archbishop Murphy 344 2x --13 11 0
Ballweg, Patsy (2), Cravens (4) and Wagner; Mahlum and Galgano. WP--Mahlum. LP--Ballweg. 2B--Galgano (AM) 2, Clouse (AM). HR--Dorney (AM). Records--Cedarcrest is 13-3 in league, 13-5 overall. Archbishop Murphy is 16-1, 17-2.
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