As they have done all season, every player in the Catonsville lineup did something productive to help the Comets win another big game.
But, Tuesday night’s 4-3 win over Winston Churchill (11-11), in the Class 4A state semifinals at Shipley Field at the University of Maryland, College Park, was the biggest of them all.
The victory advanced them to the state championship game, where they will play South River, at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, May 24, at Ripken Stadium.
Catonsville makes its first appearance in the state finals since the 1976 squad won the school’s only baseball state championship.
They lost in the state semis in 1975, 1978, 1990 and 2007.
Aberdeen’s Cal Ripken Jr. was the winning pitcher, 4-3, against Catonsville in 1978.
The Catonsville team has turned that 4-3 score into a magical one with wins over Dulaney in the second round of regionals and Westminster in the regional finals by the same score.
This time, the Bulldogs fell victim to the 4-3 tally.
All 10 Comets (17-4), who played significant time, contributed, and deserved red carpet kudos.
Starting pitcher JD Klein and reliever Tim Birkmeyer battled out of jams the entire game and the defense never let them down.
In the bottom of the first inning, when the Comets fell behind 2-1, left fielder Ryan Whittington threw out a runner at the plate after a base hit.
In the second, with a runner on second base, third baseman Danny Bruno (two doubles) prevented a run with a diving play and throw to first from his knees.
Jeremy Davis drove in his second run to tie the game at 2-2 after Kevin Sheppard doubled with one out in the third.
In the top of the fourth, it was daring base running and small ball that took center stage.
Following a single by Whittington and walk to Joey Getzendanner, Brendan McTaggart laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt, putting runners on second and third with one out.
Ninth batter Scott Beautz delivered a sacrifice fly to center field, scoring Whittington for a 3-2 lead and advancing Getzendanner to third base.
After Wheelton walked, the count to Sheppard got to 0-2.
But before Ryan O’Carroll fired another pitch, Wheelton ran towards second, stopped, and got in a rundown.
O’Carroll turned his back on Getzendanner, who stole home for the fourth run, before the Bulldogs tagged out Wheelton.
“We were going to try it if the count got to 0-2 and it did and the pitcher didn’t know what to do,” Wheelton said.