Any baseball purist would have loved to have had a front row seat to Tuesday's Class 4A East Region Section I final between Arundel and Severna Park.
That's because it was a pitchers' duel between the Wildcats' Will Schubert and the Falcons' Cameron Clark that resembled Mike Mussina versus Randy Johnson.
In the end, Clark, along with Drew Jeffries and George Lesher, came out on top by defeating Arundel, 2-0, to win the section title and the right to host North Point, a 4-2 winner over Chopticon, on Friday for the East Region crown and a berth in the state semifinals next week.
"For me, this was kind of to be expected. Probably the two best teams in our region and in our county," said Severna Park coach Eric Milton, a former University of Maryland and Major League Baseball pitcher. "I wouldn't expect anything less. They have one of the best arms in the county right there (Schubert). I'm not looking forward to seeing him next year. Just a well played ballgame both ways. Arundel was the last team I wanted to see in this game."
That may have been because Arundel had defeated the Falcons, 8-2, back on April 7, one of Severna Park's two losses this season.
Both pitchers were ready for the action on Tuesday and matched each other batter-for-batter in each of the first three innings. Nine batters came up for each team and nine batters were set down by the pair of right-handers.
Arundel managed the first baserunner in the fourth when Garrett Stanard reached on a throwing error with one out. Stanard stole second and a batter later Matt Moon drew a walk, but both runners were left stranded.
George Lesher ripped a one-out single in the bottom of the inning but a tailor-made short-to-second-to-first double play put the Falcons down with Schubert still facing the minimum batters through four innings.
Michael Smell rapped a one-out base hit in the fifth and Andrew Jones came on as a pinch runner for the first baseman. Keegan O'Donnell followed with a sharp single to center that was misplayed by the Falcons. Right fielder Jake Hallet backed up the play and threw a strike to the cut-off man, who threw to the wrong side of home plate. Severna Park catcher Ryan Key made a beautiful sweep tag to cut down Jones and preserve the scoreless game.
Both teams went down 1-2-3 in their respective half innings setting up the Falcons drama in the bottom of the sixth.
Key led off with a single up the middle and courtesy runner Sam Barranco was sacrificed to second, then moved to third on a balk. Jeffries launched a 3-2 offering from Schubert to center field that was still rising when it sailed over his head for a run-scoring triple. After another out, Lesher delivered a two-out double that was barely fair down the right field line, scoring Jeffries to make it 2-0 Falcons. After an intentional walk to Kody Milton, another balk was called so Arundel issued another intentional pass to load the bases, but Schubert induced a comebacker to the mound to escape any further damage.
"I was just looking for my pitch to hit. It just happened to be the one that I hit for a shot," Jeffries said. "I actually pointed at the dugout on my way down to first. I knew I hit it well. Once I saw it go over his head, I was just looking for coach Milton and hustling to get there. It was probably the most exhilarating moment of my high school career."
Clark got the first two outs in the seventh but Matt Hagemann laced a singled through the box to give the Wildcats some life. Smell, who had re-entered, reached on another throwing error and pinch runner Eric Maydag went to second without a throw to put the tying run on second with two outs. Clark got O'Donnell to bounce back to him to send the Falcons into a mild celebration, or just maybe a huge sigh of relief.
"I think Cam gets stronger as the game goes on. He came out last week and did it against Chesapeake, threw five shutout innings, so that's 12 straight shutout innings for him," Eric Milton said. "He's just getting stronger. He's gotten stronger as the year has went on. He's just been doing a great job."
Clark was ecstatic that he just kept Arundel from scoring any runs, no matter how he and his team did it.
"I just like to keep the other team at zero. If I do that and even if we get just one run, we win the game and that's what matters right now," Clark said. "I have to thank my teammates for hyping me up and giving me a lot of momentum. With that, I can just go out there, use all of my pitches and do what I do. When they had runners on, I just focused more."
For Arundel coach Frank Hood, he knew it was a great game by both teams and unfortunately his team was on the losing end.
"You have to tip your hat to Severna Park. Two pitchers went at it pretty well, they were dueling each other pretty hard," Hood said. "We missed a couple opportunities and they didn't let off. They got a couple key hits in the right situations and we didn't. We had our chances earlier and didn't execute, but they did."
Schubert was truly a hard-luck loser, tossing 74 pitches over six innings, allowing four hits and two intentional walks while striking out just one. He threw 70 percent of his pitches for strikes.
"Will is a bulldog. He really came through. He developed an additional pitch, so he's able to throw four pitches for a strike," Hood said. "He's coming back next year so we get a little more strength in him, his velocity will come up. Will might possibly be one of your best pitchers next year."
WP: Clark. LP: Schubert. 2B: SP - Lesher. 3B: SP - Jeffries. RBI: SP - Jeffries, Lesher.