In Friday's 3A North Regional baseball championship final at the Ripken Baseball Complex in Aberdeen, the North Harford Hawks wasted little time in establishing a lead, plating four runs in the top of the first on their way to an 8-1 victory over Franklin.
The game was originally scheduled to be played at Franklin's home diamond, but was moved to the turf field of Yankee Stadium at the Ripken complex because of Friday morning's rainstorm affecting the field at the Baltimore County School.
With Friday's victory, the Hawks took claim of their third 3A North title in the last four years.
Prior to missing out last season, when Bel Air took the regional crown on its way to a 3A state title, North Harford won back-to-back regional finals. Both times the Hawks ended short of a state championship trophy, falling in the semifinals in 2011 and losing the 3A final the following season.
Nic Hammer, who tossed a complete game and blasted a two-run homer for the Hawks in Friday's regional championship, was on the 2012 team that finished as state runner-up.
"I was a sophomore on that team that got to the state final," Hammer said after the game. "I didn't play in the playoffs that year, but I've been to Ripken Stadium, and I know everyone on the team wants to get back there for the state [championship game]. That's been our goal from the first practice, to get us back to Ripken so we can bring home that title."
Hammer's two-run bomb, which came in the sixth inning when the Hawks were leading, 5-1, was the last big hit of the contest.
"I was 0-for-3 coming into that at-bat, and I wanted to put a ball in play, just get the bat on it," Hammer said. "I was waiting for a breaking ball, and their pitcher hung a curve that stayed up a little bit. I got my bat out and it just carried."
The Hawks opened scoring in the top of the first, with Brian Shaffer driving an RBI single up the middle to put the first run on the board. Austin Bartenfelder followed with a two-RBI single to center. The next hitter, Braden Stinar, followed suit with a one-RBI single of his own to put the Hawks ahead, 4-0.
Franklin worked Hammer for one run in the bottom of the second, but that would be all the host team would put up for the rest of the day.
"When you run into some trouble, or you're maybe getting squeezed a little on the strike zone, you just have to forget about it," Hammer said. "You come into games like this knowing it's going to be super tight, that it's going to be competitive. You can't let it bother you."
Over the balance of the game, Hammer held Franklin to a pair of hits and issued two walks. Through seven innings, the North Harford starter recorded eight strikeouts.
In the top of the fifth, Brian Shaffer jacked a one-out triple to right and was driven home for the Hawks' fifth run on Josh Garcia's first-pitch single.
Garcia was also responsible for North Harford's final tally, as he followed Hammer's sixth-inning homer with an RBI double.
Shaffer finished the game 3-for-4, while Garcia went 2-for-3.
In the 3A state semifinals on Tuesday, the Hawks will travel to Joe Cannon Stadium in Hanover for a contest with the winner of the 3A South title game between LaPlata and Stephen Decatur. The start time Tuesday's game has not yet been announced.
Havre de Grace falls in 1A final
The Havre de Grace Warriors season ended on Saturday with a 9-0 shutout loss to visiting Cambridge South-Dorchester in the 1A East regional championship game.
The Warriors were without a hit until Dominick Bolen rapped a single to left in the bottom of the sixth. Havre de Grace ended with two hits on the day.
Fallston topped in 2A title game
The Fallston Cougars run at a state tournament appearance also came to a halt on Saturday, as they went hitless in a 9-0 defeat to visiting Parkside at the 2A East regional championship game.