Southern of Anne Arundel County ended Hereford’s hopes for its first state championship game berth in 39 years by defeating the Bulls, 6-2, in the Class 2A state semifinal Tuesday night at Montgomery Blair High, in Silver Spring.
The Bulldogs (16-9) advance to play Parkside, of Wicomico County, Saturday at 4 p.m. at Ripken Stadium, in Aberdeen.
Southern junior right-hander Jon Artale picked up the win, pitching four scoreless innings in relief of starter Connor McCowan and giving up only two hits.
Hereford junior right-hander Robbie Mays took the loss, yielding four earned runs on nine hits in six innings.
Mays probably never expected to get that much work in the game. Hereford coach Todd Hartshorn lifted starting pitcher Jacob Covington after three batters because of a sore arm. He remained in the game at third base, however.
“Unbeknownst to us, it was tingling when he was throwing in the bullpen,” said Hartshorn, whose team had six hits. “He went out there thinking it was just soreness, but it developed into something more.”
Mays had to face a lineup Hartshorn said was “solid one though nine.”
Senior first baseman Garrett Gibson went 3-for-3 with 2 RBI, junior shortstop Truman Thomas had three hits and an RBI and sophomore outfielder Dillion Waters had a two-run triple.
Southern went ahead 2-0 in the bottom of the first as Covington struggled with his control. He hit the leadoff batter Waters. After Thomas followed with a single to left field, Covington walked Gibson to load the bases.
Mays then replaced Covington and the first batter he faced, Steve Hogan, hit a sacrifice fly to left field to score Waters. Thomas tagged up to third on the play and scored on Connor McCowan’s single to left field.
Hereford (13-9) answered with two runs in the second. After McCowan walked Bryce Fava with one out, Mays doubled down the right-field line.
Fava scored on Travis Eisenroad’s ground out. Parker Lenivy doubled to left field to bring home courtesy runner Josh Weiss.
The Bulldogs (16-10) made it 3-2 in the second when Gibson drove in Alec Conrad with a single to left field.
Artale replaced McCowan after he gave up six hits and two earned runs in three innings on 60 pitches.
McCowan only gave singles to Fava (2-for-2) and Tyler Oursler (2-for-3).
“We brought him in and he changed the whole momentum of the game,” Southern coach Frank Hood said.
The Bulldogs boosted their lead to 4-2 in the fourth on Gibson’s single to left field, which plated Waters.
Southern finished its scoring in the fifth on Waters’ two-run triple to right-center field.
“We got the timely hits tonight,” Hood said.
The loss ended Hereford’s seven-game winning streak, but didn’t diminish what the Bulls had accomplished.
They reached the state semifinals for the first time since 2001.
“Our seniors really stepped up and their leadership is what got us here,” Hartshorn said. “We faced some adversity during the season and they picked each other up. We were 6-8, but we were in the top four in the state. We couldn’t have asked for more than that.”