Coming into this week, the undefeated Oakland Mills baseball team had won four games in which they scored three runs or less.
It was a product of the Scorpions' excellent starting pitching and defense, but it was a formula that coach Brian Rau knew would not hold up over the course of an entire season.
"We've got to start scoring some runs, because when it is later in the season you can't be in a one-run game every game," Rau said after his team's 1-0 win at Glenelg last week. "You're not going to survive that way, it just isn't going to happen."
Sure enough, the Scorpions fell off of the tight rope Tuesday afternoon, as visiting Atholton handed Oakland Mills its first loss of the season, 5-1.
Shortstop Joe Bentz was 3-for-3 with two runs and two stolen bases off of Oakland Mills ace lefty Kyle Madden-Stricker.
"Joe Bentz came out today, he was ready to go, pumped up before the game, which was good to see," coach Jon Dupski said.
The Raiders tallied three runs in the third inning when Phil Frazier led off with a double to right field, Brady Acker singled on a bunt, Bentz hit a sac fly, Paul Burmester walked, Austin Feuerman hit an RBI double and Nick Raulin drove in a run on a ground out.
"We know we're a good team, we know we can compete with anyone," said Bentz, who has committed to play for Stevenson University next season. "Basically what we've got to do is we've got to get out early, and once we start rolling we can play with anyone. I know (Madden-Stricker) is a good pitcher but if you get some runs on the board you can do anything."
Madden-Stricker (7 innings, 7 strikeouts, 0 walks, 7 hits), struck out the side in order in the second inning, but the Raiders jumped on the first pitch fast ball in the third inning.
"That was definitely my mindset. I know a lot of guys were looking for the fastball ... I was up there to swing," Bentz said. "I was seeing it pretty good off of the left side. I usually struggle with lefties a little more, but I was seeing it pretty good and just trying to take it back up the middle or away. When you have that mindset and you're looking for the fastball you can get some solid contact."
Oakland Mills got its only run against Atholton starter Michael Slayton (5 innings, 7 strikeouts, 5 walks, 2 hits) in the third inning when Evan Russell (2 stolen bases) doubled home Westan Hart, who reached on a leadoff walk. Mike Mastrandrea was the only other Scorpion to get a hit in the game.
"It comes down to hitting and we're not making the key hits in the key situations," Oakland Mills coach Brian Rau said. "I thought Kyle pitched good enough to win, but we didn't play good defense and we didn't hit behind him.
"I'm not upset. I told the guys afterward, when was the last Major League team that won 162 games? It just doesn't happen," he added. "We're not worried about that, we just want to get better."
Atholton's Dan McCann took the mound for the sixth and seventh innings and shut the door, surrendering only one walk and striking out two.
Oakland Mills stranded three runners at third in the game.
Both teams are now 6-1 in Howard County league play, joining Marriotts Ridge (7-1) as the last three one-loss teams in the league.
Oakland Mills visits Marriotts Ridge on Friday, and Atholton will get a chance to avenge its only loss at Marriotts Ridge on April 24.
"The county race is good. All three (one-loss) teams definitely have some talent and are definitely going to come to play," Bentz said. "We played Marriotts Ridge before and slipped a little bit, we didn't look too hot against them. But if we can come out with the same intensity we came out with today, we've got a good shot at the top spot."
Marriotts Ridge defeated Atholton, 12-2, on March 22. The Mustangs have only lost to Hammond (5-3), which hosts Atholton on April 17.
Hammond first-year head coach Casey Medairy was Atholton's JV head coach last year.