If North Harford ace Kevin Mooney was waiting for the right time to pitch his first career perfect game, he certainly picked it, as the senior retired 21 straight North Hagerstown hitters Tuesday in the Hawks' 4-0 victory over the Hubs in the Class 3A state semifinals at Joe Cannon Stadium in Hanover.
With the victory, North Harford advances to its first state championship baseball game. The 3A title game will be played at 7 p.m. Saturday at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen. The Hawks are scheduled to face J.M. Bennett.
Mooney struck out 13 batters in the no-hitter.
"That was incredible," Mooney said after the game. "I'm so happy with the team, with winning this game. Around the fourth inning I realized they hadn't got a hit yet, but I was trying not to think too much about it. I just kept to myself on the bench and tried to focus, think about what I was going to throw the next inning."
In the bottom of the seventh, three outs away from the perfect game, Mooney nearly lost it as the Hubs' leadoff batter hit a dribbler between the first base line and the pitchers' mound. Mooney was able to glove the ball and flick it to first baseman Brandon Wooten, beating the runner by half a step.
"I thought Brandon had it, then it skipped back into the middle of the field, and I said to myself, 'oh no,'" Mooney said. "I just barely got over to it and tossed it in time. I rolled over and said 'thank God' after [the] ump called him out. That was really close."
Needing just a pair of outs, Mooney fanned the final two Hubs' hitters, sending the final one back to the bench with a letter-high fastball.
The victory was extra sweet for the Hawks, who suffered a 15-inning loss to La Plata in last year's 3A semifinal.
"The theme for this whole season was, 'we've got unfinished business,'" Mooney said. "We came back to the same place and got the job done, now we're headed to the finals. It feels really good."
North Harford didn't score until the top of the sixth when Josh Weimann, who took Mooney's place as a courtesy runner after the pitcher reached on a fielder's choice, raced home on Alec Mouring's suicide squeeze bunt. Brian Shaffer, up directly after Mouring with the bases loaded, laid down another squeeze bunt, this one scoring Brendan Harris, who replaced catcher Jon Hammer on the bases after Hammer reached on an infield single.
In the top of the seventh, North Harford's Cody Brittain led off by reaching on an infield error, then scored when Ryan Stinar smacked a double over the center fielder's head. Stinar eventually scored the Hawks' fourth and final run on Hammer's RBI single to right.