Easton 8 — St. Michaels 7
EASTON — Jarin Winters saw where the ball he hit was headed, but be was more concerned with where he was running.
“I saw it off the bat,” the Warriors sophomore said of his third hit of the day Thursday against St. Michaels, “but honestly, I was watching first base. I didn’t want to miss first. I was watching Coach [Paul Gancasz] down there.”
Winters’ single in the bottom of the seventh broke a tie forged just moments before, giving Easton High’s baseball team an 8-7 win over their county rivals.
Easton (5-4 overall, 2-1 North Bayside) has now won back-to-back home games in its final at-bat, the first a 14-13 victory over Kent County on April 8.
Romberger, having entered the game a few pitches earlier at second as a courtesy runner for Nick Christopher, “was thinking, ‘As soon as he hits something in the outfield, I’m home’,” he said. “There were two outs, I’m running on contact, so as soon as he hit it, I was off.”
St. Michaels dipped to 8-2, 2-1.
“Really, this was just a great game,” said Saints head coach Brian Femi, who coached his counterpart, Easton skipper Albert Pritchett, for three years of high school ball. “It was two evenly matched teams, and both teams had good performances at the plate, and good performances pitching.”
The Warriors put two runs across in the bottom of the second to get things going. A Colin Baynard fly ball to right field fell in between three fielders, putting him on first with one out. Moments later, Ryan O’Connor doubled to left, and Winters singled with two outs to score them both.
The Saints responded in the top of the third with a single run, Nolan Sawatsky drawing a one-out walk and coming home three batters later on a Christian Glessner sacrifice fly to right field.
Easton nearly broke it open in the bottom of the fourth against Saints starting lefty Ben Morris.
Christopher led off with a walk, and Winters followed with a double to the left-center fence, putting two men in scoring position. Trent Weems was given an intentional walk to load the bases, and Alek Riedel, up next, singled up the middle to score Christopher and Winters. A Logan Baillif RBI grounder scored Weems, and Riedel eventually crossed the plate on a Baynard double to left, making it 6-1.
“I was concerned that maybe I left Ben in too long, when Easton started to score a bunch of runs,” Femi said, “and it wasn’t because he wasn’t locating the ball; Easton just hit the ball really well today. So I brought Jack in and he did a great job first [couple of innings], but like I said, Easton hit the ball really well.
“They adapted well, and they got a couple of big RBI hits late,” Femi added. “They played a great game. We played a good game, came out of a big five-run hole and nearly won it.”
The vistoris offered another immediate response, and it became the game’s biggest rally.
With one out in the top of the fifth, Easton starting pitcher Dante Hall hit leadoff hitter Nick Newnam. Sawatsky walked, and Josh Risher laid down a bunt.
In addition to Risher legging it safely to first, the throw from Hall went high and wide for an error, and Newnam scored on the play, Sawatsky made third and Risher got to second. Jock Luthy scored Sawatsky with a single to make it 6-3, and Glessner popped up for the second out.
Jack Vener then singled, scoring Risher and moving Luthy to second. Mike Kemp came on to run for Vener, and Grant LaBelle dropped a double into right field to bring home Luthy and move Kemp to third base. A two-run single by Josh Sherwood put the Saints up 7-6, scoring Kemp and Sherwood.
“We had some big hits that inning,” Femi said. “And I think the younger guys really played their hearts out today, guys like Josh Sherwood, a freshman, coming up big with a two-run single in that big inning.”
At that point, Easton coach Albert Pritchett pulled Hall, and put in southpaw Jaden Cassell. But had he left his starter, who passed 90 total pitches on the day during the 25-minute top of the fifth, in too long?
Pritchett said that was never a consideration.
“No. I thought he did a good job overall,” Pritchett said. “The plan all along was to go with Dante as long as possible, and he was in the 90s in pitches by the time we got to the bottom of the St. Michaels lineup there in the fifth. The plan was not for him to face Nick Newnam again. Nick’s such a dangerous hitter, and you don’t want a pitcher to face him three times in a game that close.
“We were going to go with Dante, and then go to Jaden, and the way the pitch count went, it got up there just where we thought we would need to pull Dante out anyway. Dante did exactly what we hoped he would. He kept us in it,” Pritchett added. “And we also had Trent Weems, who can come in and throw hard. So we stayed with the plan, we went Dante, then Jaden, and we were fortunate enough that it worked out for us. ... Plus, we were a pitch away from getting out of that inning without too much damage, at several points.”
Easton had to square off against Vener to begin the bottom of the fifth, a senior righty with a nasty deuce no one in the Easton lineup had any luck with for two full innings. Vener (2-1) used his curve ball as an out pitch four times over the course of the home halves of the fifth and sixth, three times for strikeouts. He also got a lucky break in one inning.
Riedel, who led off the Warrior sixth with an infield hit, stole second a moment later, and made third on a Cassell fly ball to left field. But he strayed too close to home when Vener faced Baillif, and Luthy caught him, leaping to his feet when an 0-2 fastball sailed high and firing to LaBelle.
The ensuing 2-5-2-5-1-6 rundown ended in a putout, and the lost runner looked all the more glaring a moment later, when the next pitch to Baillif trickled past Luthy and hit the backstop. Likely a passed ball had anyone been on third, it was merely ball two, instead. Baillif eventually struck out on a Vener curve.
Riedel got the lost out back in the top of the seventh, though, when he caught a Sherwood pop-up to end the inning and strand Glessner at third, denying the Saints an insurance run.
Cassell (1-1), who struck out the only batter he faced in the fifth to end the big Saints rally, hit Risher with two out in the sixth but stranded him there. He also beaned Glessner in the seventh before Riedel’s catch prevented him scoring. Cassell threw 24 pitches, 14 for strikes, in 2 1/3 innings to get the relief win.
“I was just trying to keep us in the game,” Cassell said. “I just wanted to throw strikes, and trust the defense to make plays, and the guys hitting to keep us in it, hopefully put us ahead. ... We’ve got a lot of fight. We just never give up.”
In the bottom of the seventh, an error paved the way to the Warriors’ final rally.
Ashton Echternach, batting nearly .500 coming into Thursday’s game, hit a chopper just to Vener’s right, but neither he, shortstop Sawatsky, nor LaBelle could snag the ball and throw it to first. A Baynard sac bunt put Achternach at second; Vener fanned O’Connor for the second out.
Christopher followed, and slapped a liner to left-center. Echternach zipped around third and scored, tying the contest at 7-7. Christopher, his team’s catcher, made second when the relay throw got away in the infield. By rule, courtesy runners may be substituted for pitchers and catchers, so Pritchett put Romberger in his stead.
Vener’s first offering to Winters, a 50-foot curve ball, bounced off Luthy’s chest protector, rolled about 15 feet up the first base line, and it was far enough to permit Romberger to take third. Winters waved at the next pitch, another bender, and missed, evening the count.
Having already driven in two runs and contributed to four more by clobbering fastballs, and knowing what had been working for the Saints reliever, Winters said, “I was sitting on off-speed at that point. ... I was just trying to get the ball in play, get it to the outfield.”
The next pitch came in just above the knees, and Winters slapped it back at Vener, a hard grounder that bounced up the mound and appeared to glance off the pitching rubber before bounding into center field. Romberger dashed home, throwing his helmet in the air to celebrate, as the Easton bench dogpiled Winters at first.
“This team never gives up,” Winters said. “We could be down by 10 runs, and we might not win, but we’re never going to give up. ... Jaden really pitched great. I think he came on when two men on and six runs across, and he held them there. I don’t think he gave up any runs.”
“We’re gonna be in it to the end because the kids believe in themselves,” Pritchett said. “If we clean up our defense, and can be a little more consistent on our defense ... we can hang with anybody. They key is the pitching, and the defense; when we throw strikes and play defense, we’re really starting to hit the ball, so even when we’re down, we’re trying to hit, top to bottom. ... Jaden came on in a tough spot and did a great job in relief for us today, too. He pitched well.”
For Femi, a loss to the team he coached from 1982-85 was not his first choice, but the contest, he said, was fun, nonetheless, and the future still lies ahead for the 2018 state Class 1A runner-up.
“I just told the kids, the last time they beat us [in 2017] we won a state championship,” Femi said. “So, you take the good with the bad. We’ll come back and work on the things we’ve been working on, being consistent, making good plays, being fundamental.”
North Caroline 14, Saints Peter and Paul 10
RIDGELY — The Bulldogs, playing guest at their own field, scored four in the top of the 11th inning to edge Saints Peter and Paul. The game, originally slated for March 21 but postponed due to rain, was moved to North Caroline High due to a field-scheduling conflict in Easton.
Tanner Young (two runs, three RBIs), Jayden Watkins (three walks, run, two RBIs), and Will Manship (three walks, three runs) each collected two base-knocks for North Caroline (6-3). Watkins, a freshman, pitched five scoreless innings of relief, taking the hill in the bottom of the seventh and closing it out after helping his team’s go-ahead spurt in the top half. He struck out six while allowing one hit and two walks.
For the Sabres, brothers Hunter and Brooks Hoffman (two runs) had three hits apiece. Aubrey Perry collected two hits and scored three runs. Connor Quade took the loss on the mound.
Saints Peter and Paul is now 5-4 overall following the non-conference loss.
Colonel 13, Cambridge-SD 1
CAMBRIDGE — The Colonels (11-0, 3-0) jumped on their hosts early, scoring seven runs in the top of the seventh and cruising to a win in five innings.
Ty Scott (4-0) pitched a complete-game one-hitter for his third win since April 5; he struck out nine and walked four.
Jackie Zebron (RBI, double) and Remy Mangum (two RBIs) each went 3 for 4 in the win. Ryan Stanton (two RBIs) and Tyler Stanley (RBI) both notched a pair of hits, while Nate Brown (two runs, RBI) and Nathan Roth (two RBIs) singled.
Kent County 7, Queen Anne’s 0
CENTREVILLE — Peyton Taylor went 3 for 4 at the plate, hitting two doubles and scoring twice. He also pitched a four-hit shutout, striking out seven, as the Trojans upped their season mark to 5-5, 1-2.
Dylan Hill knocked two doubles as well, driving in four Kent County runs, while Donnie Forgan had two hits, scored twice, and collected an RBI.
The Lions fell to 1-5, 0-2.
Kent Island 6, North Dorchester 4
STEVENSVILLE — The Buccaneers (5-3, 1-2) pulled themselves out of a 4-0 hole with two runs in the fourth, and four more in the bottom of the sixth, to slip past the Eagles (3-7, 0-2).
Tre’ Thomas, Toby Skeans and Josh Blevins each collected two hits in the win. North Dorchester’s J.B. Lewis and Adam Ray both had two hits as well. Ryan Cheesman had a hit and drove in two runs for the Eagles.
Blevins, who pitched 4 2/3 innings of relief, fanning seven, got the win; Adam Freeman of the Eagles took the loss, striking out two.