Mt. Hebron coach Brian Culley said facing a good pitcher is like facing a good boxer: if you have him on the ropes, you’ve got to knock him out. Otherwise, he’s going to make you pay.
The visiting Vikings had Reservoir starting pitcher Patrick Alexander on the ropes Tuesday, scoring three runs in the third inning to take a 3-0 lead over the top-seeded Gators in a 3A East, Section I semifinal. But the knockout blow never came, and Alexander recovered in dominating fashion by retiring the last two batters in the inning and the final 14 overall in an eventual 7-3 Reservoir victory.
The Gators scored a pair of runs in the third inning and five in the fourth to break the game open and advance to host No. 2 seed River Hill, 3-0 winners against Glenelg, in the sectional final on Wednesday.
“I felt pretty confident once we got those two [in the third inning] that we were going to get some more,” said Reservoir coach Adam Leader. “... You never know how they’re going to come out after a week off and we’re inside half the time, but these guys have a lot of heart. ... Patrick settled in and was pitching to contact and I thought our defense played really well today.”
Alexander struck out two and allowed two hits and three runs but did so with an efficient 88 pitches in seven complete innings. He allowed a run on a wild pitch and walked five — one intentionally and a hit batter — but they came in the span of eight batters in the second and third innings.
Mt. Hebron’s Mark Letteiri drove in the third run with a RBI sacrifice fly and Mikaili Robertson lined out to strand two runners and end the third. A long bottom-half of the third inning, in which the Gators scored twice after Max Goron (2-for-3, 2 RBI, run) was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and Sam Gigioli hit a sacrifice fly to center, gave Alexander confidence and time to find his stuff.
“It was really just a mechanical problem, trying to find my fastball. We came back with a big inning and I had a lot of extra time,” said Alexander, who led off the third with a single and finished with a walk and a run scored at the plate. “I went into the bullpen and was working on my release and making sure I was coming to the glove; I was kind of pulling off. Next inning I kind of had an ‘ah-ha’ moment, it clicked and I settled down.”
The Vikings (10-9) couldn’t get anything going against Alexander from then on. They hit five fly balls to left, grounded out five times, and struck out and lined out once in their last 12 at-bats to go down in order while the Gators’ bats came alive.
Alexander threw 32 pitches in his final four innings of work and he got three outs on three pitches in the sixth.
“They had a guy in the bullpen warming up [in the third inning], and when you have a high-quality pitcher on the ropes you’ve got to knock him out of the game. You can’t give him a chance to find it, and that’s exactly what he did,” Culley said of Alexander. “He came back out and got stronger as the game went on. He just battled. He’s a microcosm of what they have over there: grinders who grind away and don’t ever give in.”
Reservoir (16-4) got things going offensively in the fourth inning. It put 10 batters to the plate and took advantage of two errors — a throwing error from Mt. Hebron’s back-up catcher and a dropped fly ball by right fielder Ryan Van Tine — that both scored runs.
Goron drove in his second run of the game with a two-out single off relief pitcher Michael Mason, and following a walk to Gigioli that loaded the bases, Kyle Fehr ballooned the lead from two to four with a 2-RBI double to the gap in right-center field.
“We were just trying to move guys over and get into scoring position and we had some really clutch hits from Max and Kyle,” Leader said. “We talk about using the whole field and they did a really good job spraying it around. To tack those on, I think Alexander had a sigh of relief and he wasn’t too tight anymore and was able to come out and throw strikes. It’s great that we have a lot of pitching left for tomorrow.”
The Gators beat River Hill, 8-1, on April 20 to hand the Hawks their first county defeat of the season. They knocked around starting pitcher Josh Mann, who they could face again for a shot at making the regional finals after River Hill threw Kieran Garner against Glenelg on Tuesday. Reservoir will have ace Max Goron on the mound.
Leader knows his team will face a Hawks team hungry to avenge their prior defeat.
“We beat them at a bigger margin but they’re better than that and we know they’re better than that,” he said. “It’s going to be a big battle like it was today. They’re going to be pumped up and ready and probably still pissed off about the last game. Our thing is they’re going to come into our house and we’re going to try to put up a wall and not let them through it.”
Reservoir (16-4) — 7, Mt. Hebron (10-9) — 3
123 456 7 R-H-E
MH 003 000 0 3-2-2
Re 002 500 x 7-8-0
2B: Re — Kyle Fehr, Trevor Romaine; MH — None
WP: Re — Patrick Alexander; LP: MH — Michael Mason
3A East, Section I semifinal:
River Hill (15-5) — 3, Glenelg (13-9) — 0
3A East, Section II semifinal:
Chesapeake-AA — 3, Atholton (9-13) — 0
2A West, Section II semifinal:
Marriotts Ridge (18-3) — 7, Century — 2
Jake Dinoto allowed three hits and no runs in five innings while Joey Fellona went 2-for-4 with two RBI to lift the Mustangs into the sectional final. They stole eight bases in the game.
4A North, Section II final:
Howard (15-7) — 4, Sherwood — 3
Sophomore Brendan Foster gave up one run in 5 1/3 innings and senior Darian Kassiri pitched the seventh and earned the save for the Lions. Junior Craig Wiley had a 2-RBI single in the fourth inning and Kassiri also had an RBI single and two hits.
MIAA C Conference semifinal:
St. John’s — 12, Chapelgate (5-10) — 2
MIAA B Conference:
Glenelg Country — 4, Severn — 3