Catonsville High senior center fielder Rob Wheelton knew his offense needed a spark, so he gave it to them, but not before providing them with a defensive gem that preserved a scoreless tie.
Wheelton’s diving catch in left center field ended the top of the third inning.
One out later, his sharp single to right field, followed by a stolen base, started an 8-run inning that led to a 9-5 victory over visiting Dulaney on Wednesday afternoon.
Catonsville improved to 5-3 overall and 5-1 in league play, while the Lions dropped to 7-3 overall.
“Every time you make a catch like that, it always gets the team going, especially when I make it, because I’m one of the captains on the team so it just gets blood flowing,” Wheelton said.
His sprawling catch also preserved a no-hitter for starting pitcher Tim Birkmeyer (2-1).
That was broken up with one-out in the top of the fourth on a home run by Kris Ewer.
“I knew Kris was going to give us trouble at some point today, whether it was on the mound or at the plate, and then he hit that home run,” Catonsville coach Rich Hambor said.
But, that came after the Comets batted 14 hitters and had seven hits and three walks off Ewer and relief pitcher Robert Picka in the bottom of the third.
Brendan McTaggart had RBI singles in each of his two plate appearances in the inning and Kevin Sheppard had a run-scoring single.
Chris Bruno had a two-run single and Scott Beautz added a two-run double that doinked off the third base bag.
“We’ve been around baseball long enough to know some days aren’t yours and some are the other teams,” Dulaney coach Ryan Wolfsheimer said. “The ball hits the bag, the left fielder makes a heckuva play, the center fielder makes a diving catch with a guy on second base.”
The superb catch in left field was made by Catonsville’s Ryan Whittington in the top of the sixth inning to preserve a 9-3 lead.
With runners on first and second, Whittington hauled in Kurtis Ewers’ long drive about three feet from the home run fence.
Whittington (2-for-4) had scored the Comets ninth run, after he tripled and scored on Jay Getzendanner’s double with two outs in the fourth.
Dulaney made it 9-3 on an RBI single by Picka and sacrifice fly by Patrick Hoffman in the fifth inning.
They drew even closer against Comet reliever Chris Jay in the top of the seventh.
Jake Sousa doubled to lead off the seventh and Bobby Donald singled with two outs, before Kris Ewers brought them both home with a double to left center field.
After Devin Conroy walked, putting the tying run in the one deck circle in the person and big bat of Kurtis Evers (1-for-3), Hambor brought in ace JD Klein for the one-out save.
The junior ace (3-0), who hurled a no-hitter this season in a 16-0 whitewash of Dundalk, and went five innings on Monday in a 6-2 win over Parkville, got David Chong to fly out to Wheelton for the final out.
“They are a good hitting team and I knew the second and third time they were going to make adjustments,” Hambor said.
The game was extra special for Hambor, a Cockeysville resident whose son, Jake, plays for the Lions as a reserve outfielder.
“He doesn’t start and I didn’t think he would play and I had no problem with them putting him in or not,” coach Hambor said. “He’s not starting right now, so he’s just biding his time like everybody else.”
Meanwhile, the Comets have been rolling along, with a loss to Eastern Tech as the team’s only league blemish.
Playing fundamental ball has been the tonic for success.
“You don’t have to make the great plays, making the basic plays is what we did today,” said Hambor, who praised defensive plays made by third baseman Bruno, shortstop Getzendanner and first baseman Sheppard. “All those plays are great plays, but they are fundamental plays, you are supposed to make and we made them. If we do that, we are going to be in every game.”
Dulaney’s Wolfsheimer has seen that more often then not this season.
“The ball went their way, but we didn’t help ourselves with the walks and the errors. That is never going to help you out.”
The two teams could meet again in the postseason and papa Hambor would have no problem facing his son’s team again.
“They are in our region,” Hambor said. “I hope we do play them again. I would love to play them again.”
Wolfsheimer shares the same sentiments.
“I know Rich,” Wolfsheimer said. “He’s a good friend of mine. I know this game meant a lot to him, just like it meant a lot to us. They got this one and I hope we get a chance to see them in the playoffs.”