If you asked Reservoir senior T.J. Pipik about this season, he might only tell you about the loss to Atholton in the Class 3A East regional semifinals after winning 21 games in a row. The last game of a high school career tends to stick in one's craw like that.
"There isn't a day that doesn't go by that you don't think about it, and what you could have done and what you should have done," said Pipik, the Columbia Flier/Howard County Times Player of the Year. "We did everything we could, but we just didn't come out and play that day."
It would be a shame, however, to boil down such a successful season — the greatest in Reservoir's decade-long history — to just the one loss that ended it.
Because to do so would not only downplay the accomplishments of a team, including the school's first county and District V baseball titles, but also those of an individual who spent countless hours in the batting cage, on the diamond and in the weight room to ensure success.
All season long, Pipik attempted to deflect any attention that he got onto his team as a whole. But now that the season is over, it is impossible to argue his impact on the Gators' success.
Pipik started the year hot and never cooled off. He finished with a .472 batting average, 34 hits, 35 RBIs (20 more than any teammate, despite batting leadoff), 29 runs, eight walks, eight doubles, two triples and a county-best eight home runs. Those numbers added up to a ridiculous 1.456 on-base plus slugging percentage. Babe Ruth's career high-water mark was 1.379. Barry Bonds' was 1.422.
In the entire season, he struck out only six times in 80 plate appearances. He also stole 10 bases, being caught only once.
"He finished the way he played all year," coach Adam Leader said. "He's got 90 percent of our school records now in both pitching and hitting."
Pipik's season was so outstanding that as soon as it was over, his No. 6 jersey was immediately retired.
Had Pipik only led off for the Gators and played shortstop, he still would have been an All-Metro caliber player. But what truly makes him one of the most special players to come through the county in years is what he also did as a pitcher.
Using his mid-to-high 80 mph fastball, a knuckle curve and a change-up, Pipik logged 54 innings and allowed a scant three earned runs (0.38 ERA). He finished 9-0 with four complete game shutouts, including a perfect game and a no-hitter, striking out 71 and walking only five.
The individual game highlights were almost too numerous to list. Every other game, it seemed, Pipik was batting 4-for-4, belting a grand slam or hitting a walk off home run.
One highlight that stood out was Pipik's bases clearing triple to deep center field in the District V title game, eliciting spirited cries of "Let's go!" from his coaches and teammates.
Pipik's batting average was also tempered by the six times he reached base on errors. A more generous scorekeeper may have ruled some of those plays hits, but Reservoir's scorekeeper — Ray Pipik — made sure his son earned every accolade that he got. And there were plenty.
Pipik was named to the Washington Post All-Met team, joining Atholton's Kory Britton as one of only two players from Howard County to receive the honor this year. He was also selected as the Baltimore Sun All-Metro baseball Player of the Year, and joined Britton to represent Howard County in the prestigious Brooks Robinson All-Star game at Camden Yards.
"It's like you're living out a fantasy, but I put a lot of hard work into it," said Pipik.
And that work ethic will be Pipik's legacy at Reservoir for years and years to come.
"Hard work. That's what I told all of the juniors: if you want something you've got to work hard for it. It's not going to come to you," he said.
And while his lasting memory of high school might be the playoff game that got away, Pipik has a chance to make plenty more baseball memories next year at CCBC—Catonsville.
"I'm going to college with my two best friends (teammates Kevin and Kyle Alexander) so we're going to have a good time," Pipik said.