Heading into the bottom of the seventh with a 9-2 lead at Centennial Thursday afternoon, Howard coach Nick Hoffner might have felt pretty confident that his team would be going home with a win.
But Hoffner has seen enough high school baseball games to know that there's a difference between being up big in the ninth and being on the bus after a win.
"You can never have enough runs," said Hoffner, whose team hung on to win, 9-7. "You always want to get any extra runs you can have."
Centennial batted around in the seventh, eventually putting the tying run on first base when pinch hitter Robert Hunter hit a two-out RBI single over the infield.
In their last at-bat, the Eagles sent ten players to the plate, and scored five runs on singles by Tyler Morris, Robbie Miller, Derek Nadeau, David Phelps and Hunter.
The drama finally came to an end when Sean Crawford — who scored one of the Lions two runs in the top of the seventh — came on to get the final out on a fly ball to left field.
On Wednesday, Centennial was on the verge of upsetting undefeated defending county champion Atholton, leading 10-7 in the sixth inning. But the Raiders scored six runs in the bottom of the sixth to go up by three. Centennial scored twice in the seventh, but fell a run short.
"We can come back and make a valiant effort, but it's too little, too late," Centennial coach Denis Ahearn said. "We're almost a good team and I have confidence that eventually we will be."
Tyler Gormus pitched the first six innings for Howard, striking out five, walking four, and allowing only two runs on two hits. It was the second strong pitching performance in as many days for Howard. On Wednesday, James Cain struck out eight and allowed only one run on five hits in a 1-0 loss to Marriotts Ridge.
"You had a lot of pitchers who were throwing from flat ground but they weren't facing hitters as much in March, with as much rain and snow as we got," Hoffner said. "Now they're getting a little more consistent here the last two, three weeks ... they're getting a little more rhythm. All the guys have gotten better their second, third time out."
The game was stopped for about 20 minutes in the fifth inning after a scary collision at home plate. Howard's Devin Rowell tried to score from third on a delayed double steal, but the 1-6-2 relay to Eagles catcher Nick Varner beat Rowell to the plate. A helmet-to-helmet collision ensued, and it was almost 15 minutes before Rowell was back on his feet.
"I'm sure they'll run him through a bunch of tests," Hoffner said. "He was up walking around so I'm hopeful that it's nothing serious."
Keenan Fischer led the Lions offense with two singles, two runs and an RBI double. Designated hitter Brett Schaeffer collected three hits, while Mark Reagan (R, RBI), Eric Greenbaum (R), and James Cain (2B, 2 RBIs, R) added two hits each.
Robby Miller tripled and scored three runs for the Eagles.
Ho (3-4) 201 220 2 - 9 14 1
C (2-6) 101 000 5 - 7 7 1
Gormus, Tulp (7) and Greenbaum. Carr, Vanko (5) and Varner.
2B: Ho — Cain, Fischer. 3B: C — Miller.
Around the league
Atholton 12, Glenelg 5
Brady Acker was 4-4 with two home runs, a double, four runs, four RBIs and a walk.
Long Reach 9, Mt. Hebron 4
Giovanny Saenz-Diaz led the Long Reach offense with three hits, including a double. JD Huffman struck out 10 and allowed only one run on two hits and six walks in 4 2/3 innings.
Marriotts Ridge 3, Wilde Lake 2
Reservoir 10, Oakland Mills 0
Tony Grabow earned the win for the Gators, striking out six and allowing only one hit in five innings.
River Hill 10, Hammond 2
St. Mary's 10, Glenelg Country 4