When Northwest second baseman J.J. Jan lifted a fastball deep to center field in the bottom of the 12th inning of the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association's 4A state championship game Friday evening, there was nothing left for Arundel to do .
Arundel, the East Region's fourth-seed had been within an out of winning — twice — only to see Jan's hit drive in the game-winning run in a 7-6 Northwest victory at Maryland's Shipley Field.
Despite the loss, it was only a few minutes after the game before the Wildcats (19-7) were looking at the proverbial silver lining.
"It's tough to lose like this, but we're going to have a hell of a team next year," said junior Cooper Hibbs, who pitched an inning of relief in the ninth. "They had great, timely hits and probably deserved to win in the end. It was a wild 12 innings."
Arundel's starting pitcher Dalton Durocher had a 5-1 lead and a one-hitter going into the bottom of the seventh inning and would have walked off the mound a winner, except with two outs and two strikes an error kept Northwest alive to complete a rally that tied the game, 5-5.
Opportunities for each team to win passed in the 10th and it came down to the bottom of the 12th with the game tied 6-6.
It was then with one out and Northwest's Mike Shannon on third, that Northwest's No. 9 hitter, Jan, a junior, came to the plate. With a 1-1 count , Jan was looking for a fastball and got it. The ball flew deep into center field and out of reach of any Arundel player as Shannon was coming home.
"Amazing," Jan said. "This is what I dreamed of since I was four and it finally happened. We were the underdog from the beginning of the year. No one knew about us, except us. Even when we were down to the last out with two strikes no one doubted we were going to win."
Prior to Friday , Northwest had never made it to a championship final — or even past a regional final.
"It's baseball," Arundel coach Jason Lively said. "My kids played their hearts out and I couldn't be prouder. And Northwest battled and for their effort they got a state championship. But we have a great foundation to build on."
The Wildcats opened the first inning by sending six batters to the plate for three hits and two runs. Arundel's Keith Grassel, who doubled twice in the game, powered home Matt Shin, who had singled, and then scored on a single by Durocher, who also doubled in the third inning to score Grassel a second time.
Arundel - 202 000 100 100 - 6-12-2
Northwest - 100 000 400 101 - 7-8-0
Durocher, Ghiardi (6), Hibbs (9) and Brandt. Moeltner, Banks (6), Cianci (11) and Shannon. 2B - A - Grassel (2), Durocher. Plummer. NW - Cianci, Jan 3B: A - Durocher. NW - Banks.