Shortly after holding onto a thrilling 5-4 victory against previously undefeated North County Friday night, a raucous sound of jubilation quickly arose from the various mouths of the Chesapeake baseball team and could be heard from well outside the visitor locker room located in the bowels of Joe Cannon Stadium. That festive mood, in fact, continued for several more minutes before the Cougars collectively exited the stadium.
While besting a Knights team that entered the contest at 5-0 was certainly cause enough for celebration, the victory halted, at least temporarily, a slow start to the team’s defense of its 2022 Class 3A state crown as the Cougars opened the young season with three losses in their first four contests.
“This is huge,” said Chesapeake second baseman Cole Parsons, whose late inning defense along with a run-scoring triple in the second inning were key to Friday’s victory. “They’re . . . probably the best team in our county and us coming off a tough loss to Northeast, they probably came in here and thought they were going to kick our butts and get on with their weekend and Spring Break, but we had other plans.”
Those “plans” included jumping out to a 4-0 through five innings of work against the complete-game offerings of North County’s Thor Hildebrand before fending off a late rally by the Knights, who pushed across all four of their runs in the final two frames.
“We’ve hit the ball really hard, and people have made some really good plays against us,” said Chesapeake-Anne Arundel coach Jeff Young, whose team improved to 2-3 overall and Anne Arundel. “So far, we haven’t been able to come out with a two-out hit. Tonight, it looked like we were able to turn that around a little bit. The big thing for them, it’s just finding a groove. Hopefully, they can continue it from this point forward.”
Carter Drab staked his squad to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first with a single to left field to bring home leadoff batter Sean Carroll, who walked to start the inning and reached second on a fielder’s choice.
Parsons extended that lead with a run-scoring triple to deep left-center field and then scored three batters later on a wild pitch for a 3-0 lead in the top of the second. The Knights threatened with runners in the corners and two outs in the bottom of the third before Cougars lefty pitcher Noah Bowerman induced a ground ball to short to end the inning.
That Cougars’ advantage ballooned to 4-0 in the fifth as Carroll doubled off the base of the left field wall, reached third on a wild pitch, and then scored on an error at second base.
The Knights (5-1, 4-1 Anne Arundel), however, rallied to within a run with three crossing the plate in the bottom of the sixth inning on a two-run single by Hildebrand and a run-scoring single by catcher Kyle Lowman to chase Bowerman, who had been quite effective up to this point.
“We just came out a little flat,” Knights coach Wayne Feuerherd said. “It seemed tough to get going and get through the order. We battled back in the middle of the game and gave it a shot, but just came up one short. Anytime you start off 5-1, it’s a good start. We’ve played some pretty good ball so far. We just have to keep building for the end goal: the playoffs and states.”
That North County rally may have continued if not for two strong defensive plays by Parsons, however, that stranded the potential tying and lead runs from reaching home plate. Parsons started that defensive sequence by laying out for a ball destined for right field before quickly standing to throw out the runner.
“We knew how valuable those runs were,” Parsons said. “We still had a few insurance runs, but they had so momentum even a little hit there through the hole on the right side is probably scoring one, maybe two. If they get that, this could be a whole different ballgame.”
Carroll added what turned out to be the game-winning run with a run-scoring single to left field in the top of the seventh to pla Jayden Cieri, who worked a walk to set up Carroll’s RBI.
“I just had to do my job to get us another insurance run because they were coming back a little bit,” Carroll said. “I was looking for a fastball because that’s what I hit best.”
The Knights trimmed the lead on a dropped third strike that reached the backstop, allowing Cole Petraska to score and Kevin Santos to reach first base with two outs, but relief pitcher Josh Boyd induced a groundball to shortstop off the bat of Hildebrand to seal the win.
NO. 5 CHESAPEAKE-ANNE ARUNDEL 5, NORTH COUNTY 4
at Joe Cannon Stadium
Chesapeake 1 2 0 0 1 0 1 - 5 7 2
North County 0 0 0 0 0 3 1 - 4 7 1
WP - Noah Bowerman. LP - Thor Hildebrand. SV - Josh Boyd. 2B: CH - Sean Carroll. NC - Kevin Santos. 3B: CH - Cole Parsons. RBIs: CH - . Carter Drab, Cole Parsons, Sean Carroll. NC - Thor Hildebrand 2, Kyle Lowman.