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Bayhawks edge Hamilton, 13-12, to reach Sunday's MLL championship

By Edward Lee

The Baltimore Sun

9:54 PM EDT, August 24, 2013

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CHESTER, Pa. -- Major League Lacrosse's version of David vs. Goliath is set.

The four-time champion Bayhawks will meet the Charlotte Hounds, who are just in their second year of existence, for the title after the No. 2-seeded and reigning champs edged the No. 3 Hamilton Nationals, 13-12, in a semifinal Saturday before an announced 4,228 at PPL Park.

Midfielder Michael Kimmel's goal off a centering pass from attackman Casey Powell with 1:25 left in the fourth quarter snapped a 12-12 tie and gave Chesapeake only its third lead of the game.

“It wasn't the easiest game to play, and we always seemed to be playing from behind after the first goal,” Bayhawks coach Dave Cottle said. “We just kept playing. This is what we're trying to do. We're trying to be good at the end of the year, and hopefully we'll be better tomorrow.”

The Bayhawks will play for their third title in four years Sunday at 3 p.m. (ESPN2) against the No. 4-seeded Hounds, who upset the previously unbeaten Denver Outlaws, 17-14, in the first semifinal.

Midfielder Mike Sawyer (Loyola) scored four goals (one 2-pointer) to pace Charlotte (7-7). Chesapeake split its season series with the Hounds, defeating them , 16-14, on Aug. 10 in the regular-season finale.

Charlotte's victory Saturday marred a playoff-record performance by Denver rookie attackman Eric Law (Salisbury), who scored nine goals. The Outlaws became the first team in MLL history to complete an undefeated regular season with a 14-0 record, but they depart the postseason without the Steinfeld Trophy for the eighth straight year.

Trailing 11-8 at the start of the fourth quarter of their game, the Bayhawks (9-5) got goals from attackman John Grant Jr. and attackman Drew Westervelt (John Carroll, UMBC) within a 1:56 span, but Hamilton regained a two-goal cushion when midfielder Joe Walters (Maryland) found midfielder and league Most Valuable Player Kevin Crowley alone near the left post with 9:35 remaining.

Kimmel (Loyola Blakefield, Johns Hopkins) halved the deficit with 7:09 left in regulation, and midfielder Steven Brooks got the equalizer on a long-range bomb that was inside the 2-point arc with 5:07 remaining.

With 1:25 left, Powell curled around the left post, drew two Nationals defenders, and centered the ball to Kimmel, who one-timed the ball past goalkeeper Brett Queener.

“I was kicking myself because two possessions before, [attackman] Matt Mackrides found me on the doorstep even more open, and I missed it,” said Kimmel, who finished with three goals (one 2-pointer). “So Casey Powell was drawing a lot of attention. He had the attention of two slides, and I think the goalie was looking at him. So I couldn't miss that one. It was an empty-netter, and I just batted it in.”

Crowley had a chance to tie the score with about 30 seconds remaining, but goalkeeper Kip Turner (Severn) made his 14th save and a Hamilton player was called for an illegal pick that gave possession to the Bayhawks, who ran out the clock.

After scoring 11 goals through the first three quarters, the Nationals could muster just one in the final period. Walters, who had two goals and two assists in the first three quarters, was limited to a single assist in the final quarter after Chesapeake decided to assign defensemen Michael Evans (South River, Johns Hopkins) and Jesse Bernhardt (Maryland) to shadow Walters and Crowley in the fourth.

“In the beginning, we were kind of chasing them around,” Evans said. “The Canadian style is very different from the traditional MLL style, and we just kind of had to stay where we were and let the picks come to us and fight through everything.”

Grant and midfielder Ben Hunt (Severna Park) each finished with two goals and one assist.

Bayhawks long-stick midfielder Michael Simon (Fallston, Stevenson) suffered a back injury and did not play in the fourth quarter. Although he expressed hope of playing Sunday , Cottle said Simon would not likely be available. Defenseman Nicky Polanco will likely take Simon's spot on the roster.

edward.lee@baltsun.com