Only one other team in school history has gotten as far in the state tournament as the 2013 Catonsviile High baseball team and that was the 1976 club that won the state title.
This year’s Comets reached the Class 4A final at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen, where they came up short, falling to South River (20-5), 6-0, on Friday night.
The win sent Seahawks coach Ken Dunn into retirement, after 35 years at the helm, with the school’s first state baseball title.
“We got beat by a better team today,” Catonsville coach Rich Hambor said. “We didn’t lose the game. We didn’t give it away. They hit the ball hard and their pitcher was a great pitcher.”
Catonsville (17-5) managed just two hits off South River senior pitcher Scott Mitchell, who struck out nine while improving to 8-0 this season.
“I was just feeling good all around like I usually do,” said Mitchell, who lowered his earned run average to 0.41. “First time through the lineup I threw mostly fastballs, but the second time around I started mixed in all my pitches and that just throws them all off guard. It changes their whole mindset.”
Mitchell knew he had to be on his game for his retiring coach.
“It was our duty to win this one for Coach Dunn,” he said. “He’s been through more than everyone combined. He’s the greatest man I’ve ever met. He’s funny and he just wants the best for everyone.”
Mitchell, who threw 97 pitches, including 63 strikes, and Catonsville pitcher JD Klein took center stage in the early innings.
Mitchell was perfect through the first three innings and was aided by a diving catch in left center field by Nick Raimondo that robbed Joey Getzendanner of a hit.
“I threw that pitch and I’m like, ‘That’s a hit,’ and my man is laid out with the ball in his glove,” he said.
“That was a great catch,” Catonsville’s Hambor said.
Through three innings, Mitchell had thrown just 29 pitches, 20 for strikes.
South River threatened in the second and broke through for a run in the third inning when Connor Cox doubled off the base of the wall 310-feet deep in right field and scored Kyle Canavan, who had doubled with one out.
Hustle by right fielder Scott Beautz prevented a second run from scoring as Gabe Vertucci, who was hit by a pitch, was stopped at third base.
South River added a pair of runs in the top of the fourth.
Jake Gratz’s leadoff single was followed by a double from Nick Raimondo.
Courtesy runner Jake Donaldson scored on a error and Raimondo came in on a sacrifice fly by Canavan and the Seahawks led 3-0.
Mitchell lost his perfect game in the bottom of the fourth when he walked leadoff batter Robbie Wheelton, but he struck out the side after that and stranded Wheelton at second following a stolen base.
The Seahawks added a run in the top of the fifth after Mitchell led off with a double and scored two outs later on an infield checked swing single by Brody Raimondo.
The suspense the rest of the way was whether Mitchell could complete a no-hitter.
In the fifth, he walked Ryan Whittington with one out, but retired the next two hitters on a force out and strike out.
The Seahawks tacked on two more runs in the top of the sixth on a two-run opposite-field double by Mitchell.
Mitchell lost the no-hitter in the bottom of the sixth when Beautz lined a sharp single to left field.
Following a ground out and a walk to Kevin Sheppard, both runners advanced on a wild pitch, putting them on second and third with one out as Catonsville mounted its best threat of the night.
But Mitchell notched a strike out and he deflected Danny Bruno’s sharp liner up the middle and threw him out to keep the 6-0 lead intact.
Ryan Whittington singled in the bottom of the seventh for the Comets only other hit.
“I’m proud of these guys,” Hambor said. “They made it as far as only one other team at Catonsville. We didn’t win the final one, but they got here and I’m proud of them, absolutely.”
On the other side of the field, Seahawk coach Dunn was just as proud.
“This was a great ride,” Dunn said. “The kids did a great job. It’s not about me. It’s about those kids.”