WALDORF – They may have just been a bunch of sophomores, but Liberty High baseball coach Travis Inch knew he had something special on his hands when he looked at his team three years ago.
Over the past couple of seasons that group proved the Lions coach correct with three consecutive Carroll County Athletic League championships and back-to-back regional titles. But for the second straight year, the Lions season ended just short of the ultimate goal: a state championship.
Cam Bott’s solo homer in the bottom of the sixth inning broke a tie game and lifted Patuxent to a 5-4 win over fourth-ranked Liberty in the Class 2A semifinals at Regency Furniture Stadium Tuesday night.
“These guys, I had some of these guys as sophomores and I knew they’d have it,” Inch said. “I’d coached them a little bit in the summer. I knew they’d come in being smart baseball players…I knew we could go on a run.”
Liberty scored three two-out runs in the top of the second inning to take an early 3-0 lead over Patuxent (20-2 overall). Jack Davidson got things rolling with a single and scored on Nate Martin’s triple. Derek Goff’s squibber pushed Martin home. Goff stole second and then scored on a Patuxent error to give the Lions the three-run spot against the Panthers’ starter Ivan Sypa.
“We started out and looked like the Bad News Bears in the first couple innings,” Patuxent coach Keith Powell said. “We couldn’t make routine plays. Sypa pitched very well and was getting outs, but we just weren’t helping him.”
The Panthers got one back in the inning’s bottom half, as Ryan Moran scored on Matt Bowie’s two-out single. Patuxent clawed a run closer in the fourth. Billy Clay led off the frame with a triple and scored on Moran’s subsequent ground out, cutting the gap to 3-2. An inning later, Clay’s one-out single down the left-field line chased home two runs to give the Panthers their first lead, 4-3.
“We knew it was going to be a battle coming in,” Inch said. “Some of the balls found holes. That one that went down the line that they scored two runs off of, it wasn’t hit hard, but it got through.”
The Lions (18-3) battled back, knotting the score in the sixth when Nate Martin’s single drove home Michael Martin, who had led off the inning with a single of his own. Bott’s round-tripper in the inning’s bottom half put the Panthers back on top, however. Liberty had runners on first and second with two outs in the seventh, but Moran was able to induce a high pop-up behind the plate to seal the win for Patuxent.
“My guys just continued to battle,” Inch said. “I love those guys to death. I always will. This is a memory. The guys did not quit. You saw it there at the end. We had first and second with two outs. Base hit we score a run.”
After pulling off an upset last week, Sparrows Point’s state championship bid ended quickly as
Parkside from Wicomico County scored five first-inning runs and rode the left arm of John Smith the rest of the way in a 7-0 win over Sparrows Point.
“I thought we played great,” Parkside coach Kyle Daubert said. “We’ve played like this all year. We battle. We never quit. We never give up. That was our mindset going into today.
“We came up here, three hours away from home, and tried to jump on them early. We had, I call him our 1B here [Smith[ on the mound. We knew he was going to throw strikes and throw a great game. All we had to do was give him some run support.”
Sparrows Point (14-7) got a leadoff single from Ryan Zickefoose to open the game, but that proved to be one of just two hits the Pointers were to muster against Smith. Smith surrendered a two-out single to Cody Burkman in the fifth and also issued two free passes, but was never seriously threatened. The senior hurler struck out 11.
“It was just a tough first inning,” Sparrows Point coach Marc Kline said. “They were good. They put the ball in play. They hit the ball hard and we got some bad hops in the beginning. Their pitcher was good. He spotted everything up and did his job.”
For the Baltimore County school which stunned defending state champ Glenelg in Friday’s state quarterfinals, simply reaching the state semifinals may have been more than some expected at the season’s inception. The team had some issues to work through early in the campaign, but regrouped to put together an impressive run that reached its end a game short of a second state title game appearance in three seasons.
“We were a team that had our struggles from day one,” Kline said. “We made 42 errors this season. The first two games we had 18 errors. These guys just bought into the system and fought really hard. We put together this, and they’re a good baseball team. We’ll be back next year.
“We’re young. We have four seniors. Our one senior got us here, Logan Deene. And then you saw what Austin Shifflett did [4 1/3 innings in relief with one run allowed]. Austin Shifflett doesn’t get the praise that he should because he’s sitting behind Ryan Zickefoose and Logan Deene. That boy is going to be special.”
CLASS 2A STATE SEMIFINALS
at Regency Furniture Stadium
PARKSIDE 7, NO. 14 SPARROWS POINT 0
Sparrows Point 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 – 0 2 2
Parkside 5 1 0 1 0 0 x – 7 10 0
WP - Smith; LP - Zickefoose2B: Parkside – Smith
PATUXENT 5, NO. 4 LIBERTY 4
Liberty 0 3 0 0 0 1 0 – 4 9 1
Patuxent 0 1 0 1 2 1 x - 5 11 2WP - Moran; LP - Diblasi3B – Liberty - Martin; Patuxent - Boswell, Clay
HR: Patuxent - Bott