While Pallotti High sits in a logjam in a battle for one of the six spots in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland B Conference playoffs, one team creeping up behind them is making noise by putting up runs at an alarming rate.
The Panthers saw that first hand on April 26 when Park School hosted them and scored a 20-10 victory.
Park (4-6 overall, 4-6 conference) is now just one game behind the Panthers (8-8, 5-5) in the race for fifth place in the conference standings.
Boys' Latin (9-1) leads the way, followed by Glenelg Country School (6-4), Severn (6-4) and Annapolis Area Country School (5-4).
“They sense what is going on. They all like looking at the standings and seeing what else is going on,” Park coach Andy Scott said. “I try to focus on the task at hand and let the results take care of themselves.”
They have done just that as the Bruins have won three of their last four games while scoring 50 runs in victories over Friends, 14-7, Severn, 16-14 in eight innings, and Pallotti, 20-10. The only blemish was a 14-4 loss to Boys’ Latin.
Park took advantage of 14 walks and six wild pitches in the win over Pallotti.
They also had 12 hits, led by junior pitcher Zach Charles, who had three hits and five RBIs.
His biggest blow came during an 11-run second inning when he drilled a bases loaded triple.
What was he looking for during the at bat?
“Something middle in, right around the waistband,” he said.
And what did he get?
“Something middle in, right around the waistband,” he said again.
Charles also pitched all five innings and didn’t get in hot water until the Panthers touched him for six runs in the top of the fifth when they cut a 16-4 lead to 16-10.
“I like hitting more,” Charles said.
"They’ve done a pretty good job most of the year of waiting for their pitch, at least a couple of the guys have,” Scott said. “Zack has done a great job, especially, being patient and waiting for his pitch to hit.”
Ironically, it’s the Bruins who have had to play comeback ball a lot this season.
“We’ve had a habit of falling behind early to where we haven’t had an opportunity to get in the flow of the game before it’s maybe out of our reach or out of hand,” Scott said.
This one got out of hand in the second inning when the Bruins got three-run triples from Charles and Noah Sopher, two hits and two runs each from Spencer Levitt and Jack Sheehy and runs scored by Devin Lowe, Ryan Gilbert, Stefan Babij, Harry Russel, Isaiah Hug, Charles and Sopher.
“Once we get in a game, the guys confidence starts to grow a little bit,” Scott said.
Pallotti first-year coach Lyndon Watkins, who watched his squad defeat Park 12-2 in the first meeting this year on April 5, knew his team was in trouble before the game.
“We weren’t focused and I saw it from the beginning and the pregame,” Watkins said. “We didn’t play with the intensity and focus that we do every game.”
Watkins didn’t use his top two starters, Jesse Umstot and Mick O’Brien, at all in the contest and only brought his third starter Newton Davis in a mopup roll.
But starter Devin Brogden struggled with the strike zone early and the defense let him down with two errors in the 11-run second.
“I thought the first pitcher (Brogden) was around the zone, but he started thinking about it too much instead of pitching,” Watkins said.
Brogden walked eight and struck out three in two stints on the mound, sandwiched around 12/3 innings of relief from Tre Boone.
Watkins, who coached at St. John’s, of D.C. last year, did enjoy watching his top two batters come to the plate.
Junior second baseman Brandon Watkins, who is also his son, scored three runs on three walks and a double.
“It’s the first time I’ve actually coached him,” said the coach. “It’s different.”
Following Watkins was shortstop Alex Cordon, who had a three-run triple and two doubles.
“Brandon is my son and he’s working hard and Alex is a good shortstop,” Watkins said.
The rest of the lineup produced just four hits with two of them coming on singles from O’Brien, an RBI double from Kwasi Irving, RBI single by Matt Day and single from Davis.
“We have to capitalize in key hitting situations,” said Watkins, whose Panthers had second and third with no outs in the first inning and only produced one run and also had runners thrown out at home and third in the fourth and fifth innings when they mounted a comeback.
The loss followed a 12-1 non-conference win over Sandy Spring Friends on April 23 and a 6-5 loss to Annapolis Area Christian School on April 21.
In the loss to the AACS, Matt Day and Brogden had run-scoring doubles in the first inning and Watkins had an RBI in the fourth, but they got just one more hit in the final three innings.
Against Sandy Spring, the coach utilized a lot of reserves and they delivered.
“I played a lot of the guys who haven’t played a lot and they stayed focused throughout the game,” he said.