Catonsville assistant coach Doug Campbell has been affiliated with the Comet baseball program for nearly two decades and he’s never seen a better game than the Comets’ 4-3 win in eight innings over Westminster (15-4) in the Class 4A North Region championship game Friday.
“In my 19 years here (11 as head coach), that is the best game I’ve ever seen,” Campbell said.
Catonsville won it in the bottom of the eighth, after one-out singles by Rob Wheelton and Kevin Sheppard and a game-winning walk off hit by Jeremy Davis that bounced off the left-field fence.
“I love having the pressure on,” said Davis, who entered the game batting .500. “I think it’s fun. It gets your heart going and it gets your adrenaline going. I wanted to be up there. I trust myself and I was excited to hit the ball and that is what I did.”
The top-seeded Comets (16-4) will play Churchhill in the state semifinals at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 21 at the University of Maryland, College Park.
Davis’ decisive blow came after both teams squandered golden scoring opportunities in the seventh.
With one out in the top of the seventh and Westminster’s Gene Barrett on third base, Dallas Ducote hit a chopper over the head of winning pitcher Tim Birkmeyer (6-1).
Shortstop Joey Getzendanner grabbed it and fired to catcher to Davis, who tagged out Barrett and caught Ducote trying to get to second for an inning-ending double play.
When the ball was hit, Birkmeyer was confident hit teammate would be there.
“I knew it was on the ground so I trust my infielders and my outfielders.” Birkmeyer said. “He made an incredible play and I don’t think I’ve yelled ‘four’ (to throw home) as loud as that in my life.”
Head coach Rich Hambor was confident in his defense that has been making fundamental plays and extraordinary ones all season.
“We don’t have to think about making those extra plays,” he said. “I think everybody is confident. Everybody is going to be where they are supposed to be and if you get in a position to make a great play, they are already in a position to make it.”
Catonsville loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh with one out, but Westminster hurler Trevor Hauck (7-2) induced a popped up bunt and strike out to get out of the jam.
In the top of the eighth, Austin Edwards drilled a one-out double, but pinch runner Lance Jaruis was doubled off second base after a tough running catch, pirouette, and throw right on the money from left fielder Ryan Whittington.
“That (catch) was awesome,” Davis said.
“Ryan has made some terrific plays this year and I knew as soon as it went up and I saw him running, there was no way he is not catching it and the runner made a mistake and we executed,” Birkmeyer said.
Birkmeyer worked three scoreless innings for the win.
JD Klein started and allowed three runs and five hits in five innings for Catonsville.
Westminster scored a run in the second on an Edwards’ sacrifice fly that followed a walk to Ducote and single by Brandon Martin.
Catonsville tied it in the bottom of the second after a leadoff single by Klein and run-scoring single by Getzendanner.
Westminster forged ahead 3-1 in the top of the fifth when Ducote’s double plated Barrett and Houck, who both had singled.
The Comets rallied and pulled even in the bottom of the sixth.
Getzendanner and McTaggart sinlge and an RBI double from Scott Beautz, and sacrifice fly from Wheelton plated the tying runs.
That set the stage for the thrilling final two innings.
The victory gives the Comets their first berth in the state semifinals since 2007.
“It feels absolutely, absolutely wonderful,” said Hambor, who doesn’t plan to overwork his kids on the weekend. “I hope they enjoy this all night, enjoy it tomorrow and enjoy it Sunday, and then Monday we will practice and we will play on Tuesday.”
Birkmeyer added, “It’s amazing, but the job isn’t done yet.”