Team bus rides have become a little more memorable for the Atholton baseball team lately. Only two wins away from a perfect 17-0 Howard County league season, the Raiders' players and coaches are starting to sense that 2014 could be a special year.
"We're pretty pumped, to be honest. We're trying to end the season undefeated and going into the playoffs as a 1 seed," said sophomore Blake James, who pitched Atholton to a 6-2 win at River Hill on May 2. "There are a lot of seniors on the team."
James, who also doubled in the win, was in control from start to finish. He threw 100 pitches, allowing the two runs on six hits and two walks, while striking out six.
"That was his best start of the year," coach Jon Dupski said. "He was working in some different pitches so it was definitely a good outing. We hope he keeps it up."
No Hawks baserunner even made it to third base until the sixth inning, when Jordan Northrup (leadoff single) and Ryan Benedek (bunt single) scored on an RBI single by Drew Pritchard and an RBI groundout by Brett Gold.
Atholton also scored its runs in bunches. The Raiders got on the board first, in the top of the third on a Nick Raulin sac fly and a two-out, two-run single by Michael Slayton. One inning later, Brady Acker hit a two-out, two-run single, followed by a clutch RBI single by Phil Frazier to put the Raiders ahead 6-0.
River Hill freshman Derek Gold came on with the bases loaded and no outs in the fourth. He went on to pitch four strong innings of relief, allowing only one run on three hits.
"He is the example of mixing it up. Location. You don't have to throw it hard," River Hill coach Wes McCoy said. "Show your fastball every now and then and then lots of off speed, live low."
On their senior day, the Hawks got contributions from all eight graduating players:
- First baseman Falan Garner singled twice and made five put outs and an assist without an error.
- Captain Sam Kolodrubetz laid down a successful sac bunt, reached base with two outs in the seventh inning, and made three catches in center field.
- Starting pitcher Matt King retired six of the first seven batters he faced and held Atholton scoreless into the third inning.
- Third baseman Billy Small hit a sharp grounder that hit a baserunner in the fourth, and made a strong pick and throw to first in the second.
- Captain Drew Pritchard drove in River Hill's first run in the sixth with a clean single, and called a strong game behind the plate, working with freshman Derek Gold to hold Atholton to one run on three hits through the last four innings.
- Second baseman Brett Gold reached base on an error, drove in River Hill's second run with a well-executed grounder, and made two assists and two catches without committing an error.
- Right fielder Ben Garrison put two balls in play and made a put out and an assist in the third inning.
- Left fielder Brandon Norwood showed great range, making four difficult catches in left field on well hit balls, and singled in the fifth inning.
"Brandon has really come on strong here in the latter half of the season," McCoy said. "He's done a good job of believing in the long term process of the program, and now at the end of his career he's been starting the last half of the season and doing a really nice job."
McCoy said that senior day in May is even more emotional than earlier in the year.
"It's different than senior day in the fall or senior day in the winter: we are truly the end of careers. And some of these kids have devoted 12 seasons of sports to the high school and that's a lot. So we're just very appreciative of the seniors, and very appreciative of our parents and what they do for our seniors," McCoy said. "It's good that they get to go on and do bigger and better things, and it's sad."
Atholton will have its senior day on Tuesday against Mt. Hebron, but for now the Raiders are completely focused on getting past Marriotts Ridge on Monday.
"Marriotts Ridge is a great team and so is Mt. Hebron," Dupski said. "We've just got to keep playing team baseball, that's our main focus. We've got two hard games."
A (15-0) 003 300 0 - 6 8 1
RH (7-6) 000 002 0 - 2 6 1
James and Bagley. King, D. Gold (4) and Pritchard.
2B: A - James.