Based on the records coming into Wednesday's game between Wilde Lake and Long Reach, one might have expected to see an atrocity of a baseball game.
Neither team had defeated a Howard County opponent yet this season, and the two squads combined to win only three league games last season.
But instead of a live baseball blooper reel, spectators were treated to solid pitching, better hitting and several scintillating defensive plays as Wilde Lake defeated Long Reach, 7-5, April 17 at Long Reach.
Spectators were also treated to a game of cricket beyond the center field fence, and a raving fire and brimstone preacher beyond the right field fence, but that's another story.
"We were long overdue, over the past three games we've been stringing a lot of hits together, averaging about ten hits a game, but we weren't getting the hits when we needed them," Wilde Lake coach Kareem Penn said. "Today we were able to piece together those hits, especially in the third inning. We generated some hits and got those runs in. It feels good and I know the guys feel good about it so I'm proud of them for that."
The Wildecats hung a 5-spot on the scoreboard in the third inning when the top of the line-up came up and delivered six consecutive base hits: singles by Nick Wright, Sergio Irizarry-Cruz and Tommy Mee (RBI), followed by a Cuinn Mullins RBI double, a Jack Skolnik two-run single, and a Kris Hines RBI double.
Hines doubled twice for the Wildecats.
"We rarely win, so it just feels good to finally get a win and put all of our hard work in, because in the last couple games we've only had thing: hitting but not pitching, pitching but not hitting, fielding not hitting," said Mullins, who finished 3-for-4 with a double, an RBI, a stolen base and two runs scored. "We haven't put it all together until now."
While Wilde Lake's five-run inning busted the game open, the homestanding Lightning never let things get out of control.
Reliever Joe Grabowski allowed only one unearned run on four hits in five innings of relief, and the Lightning offense chipped away with two runs in the bottom of the third and two more in the fifth, on a Kyle Fleischer two-out, two-run single.
Long Reach's five runs sets a highwater mark for the season.
"We've been playing good defense and getting decent pitching all year, we've been in games, we just haven't put up any runs, we've been competitive," coach Mike Repsher said. "We've got to play a complete game, catch all of our signs and play the game the right way ... We're younger, we're smaller and we don't have the experience of the other teams, so we've got to be as close to perfect as possible."
Long Reach was buoyed by several excellent defensive plays.
In the fourth inning, shortstop Chris Stanko snagged a line drive and fired back to first for an inning-ending double play. One inning later, Stanko made a leaping catch on a drifting volley and threw to first for another double play. One play later, freshman Josh Kulina laid out for a diving catch in left field, ending the inning and saving a run.
Wilde Lake also flashed some leather in the field, as leftfielder Jack Skolnik made a sliding catch in the third to leave Long Reach runners stranded at first and third. The Lightning left ten runners on base in the game, seven of them in scoring position.
WL (1-7) 015 010 0 - 7 9 3
LR (0-8) 012 020 0 - 5 4 5
Jimenez (4), Aubin and Mee.
Fleischer (3), Grabowski and Huffman.
2B: WL — Hines 2, Mullins.
Around the league
Atholton 5, Hammond 4
Atholton scored in the top of the seventh to pull out the close win at Hammond.
Brady Acker homered on the first pitch of the game, and went on to single and draw a walk. He also stole two bases, and has now stolen 51 bases in high school without having been caught.