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Going through the best games I've had the pleasure to cover [Column]

Things seldom turn out the way you've planned them in your mind.

Leading up to this point, I'd always imagined that, were I to leave The Aegis, I'd have some grand countdown of the top 10 sporting events I've ever covered, with the number-one game taking up an entire column.

Well, that would have been fantastic, but it would have taken me about a month to make that list. When I made the decision to resign from the newspaper two weeks ago, I started looking through the cardboard box that serves as my filing cabinet, and which holds seven years worth of the scribblings I made at important games.

I thought that this would jog my memory well enough for me to start making some kind of cursory list, but all it did was further muddy the waters in my head (which doesn't need much help, since it's naturally muddy). Reading my review of one field hockey game would remind me of four, or five, or a dozen others that were just as good, but whose details were not available to me because I hadn't saved my notes, or the online recap was buried somewhere in the deep recesses of the Internet. I had to scrap that idea, as there just was not enough time.

Still wanting to end with a recap of some sorts, I decided to push my cardboard box full of notes back into the corner of my bedroom and just let the list come to me. By my figuring, the best, most gripping contests would just jump out at me, and they did. Here are the five that will probably remain stuck in my head until I'm an old man, in no particular order. Note that there isn't one basketball game on this list, which is strange, since I've written many times about how that sport is my favorite to cover. But, I think that is the very reason I couldn't remember one particular game; there were so many good ones.

In any case, here goes:

Fallston girls soccer defeats Winters Mill, 2-1, in 2009 Class 2A State Championship: The funny thing about this game, for me anyway, was that I wasn't even covering girls soccer that season, but I wound up the press box at UMBC for this one because Aegis sports editor Randy McRoberts had another state title game to attend that same evening. Whatever the circumstances, it was about as exciting a finish as I've witnessed. Fallston, after tying the game, 1-1, in the second half, went on to win a penalty shootout that lasted seven rounds. Two times Winters Mill had a chance to end the shootout with a converted kick, and twice had its attempts go off the right goal post. Everyone in the press box clapped when this one ended, which is against the unwritten rules, but nobody cared.

North Harford's Kevin Mooney throws a perfect game in the 2012 3A North baseball state semifinal: In the years leading up to this game, I'd written many times that I wanted to see a perfect game thrown by a Harford County baseball player. I certainly wasn't expecting to see one in the state semifinals, but Mooney delivered, shutting down North Hagerstown in the Hawks' 4-0 victory. One of my clearest memories of the game is hearing a North Hagerstown hitter celebrate after he'd managed to hit a weak grounder up the first base line, that's how overpowering Mooney was that evening. To add to all the drama, North Hagerstown's leadoff hitter in the seventh inning hit a dribbler between first base and the pitcher's mound. I figured that was it, perfect game spoiled, end of story, but Mooney scooped it barehanded and threw to first while falling down to record the out. The next two hitters went down on strikes. Simply stunning.

Bel Air vs. Fallston, 2007 3A North boys soccer semifinal: This was the first of three games that Bel Air won on penalty kicks en route to the 3A state title game, which the Bobcats lost, 1-0, to Bethesda-CC. What I remember most is that this game was beautifully played, and it was absolutely brutal. I'm surprised, given how hard everyone was going, that a few players didn't leave on stretchers. In the second sudden-death overtime period, one of Bel Air's forwards banked a shot off the crossbar and Fallston was able to clear the ball out of its end. I thought that would be the point at which Bel Air folded, but I was completely wrong.

Fallston's Caitlin Dempsey scores in overtime to give the Cougars a 3A state field hockey title in 2007: This was the first state championship game I covered, and it remains one of the best. With 3:11 left in the second sudden-death overtime period, and with the score tied, 0-0, Fallston sophomore Caitlin Dempsey got hold of the ball in front of the Bethesda-CC goal and sent a backhand shot into the net, ending the game and avoiding what might have been a shared state title (were overtime to end in a 0-0 tie, the championship would have been awarded to both teams). This was the first of three consecutive state titles Fallston would win while I was covering field hockey.

IronBirds lose first playoff game, 1-0, to Tri-City: I know putting an Aberdeen loss in here may seem strange, but this was the best pitched baseball game I've ever covered, period (Mooney's perfect game takes second because it wasn't really a pitcher's duel). Aberdeen's Sebastian Vader and Tri-City's Michael Feliz combined for 14 strikeouts and zero walks in this one. Afterward, Vader, who went 8-1/3 innings, said, "I did all I could. I probably pitched the best game of my entire life." Amen.

That's it, folks. I know there are 20, 100, 500 more games that could go on this list, but, as usual, I'm past deadline. It's fitting I should end this last column staring down the clock, since I spent much of the past seven years doing just that. Thanks to everyone who has helped me along the way.

Over and out.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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