A game anticipated because of the perfection demonstrated by North Harford and James M. Bennett that got them to the 3A Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association championship game Saturday, was anything but perfect.
By the end of the third inning there were six errors split between the teams . But Bennett was able to rely on its pitcher Canaan Cropper to help the Clippers beat North Harford, 4-2, and secure their second straight championship.
Cropper had 10 strikeouts by the fourth inning, while the errors behind him resulted in nothing for the Hawks.
It was an unexpected performance by the Hawks (22-3), who entered the game with pitcher Kevin Mooney, who was 9-0 with an ERA of 0.27. Cropper also was 9-0 coming into the game and had a 0.46 ERA. The junior averaged 10.8 strikeouts a game.
Yesterday, Cropper finished with 13 and left the Hawks short of capturing their first title in the program's 52 years. Meanwhile, Bennett stretched its unbeaten streak to 43 — 21 of those this season. The title is the third in the Clippers' history.
The Hawks tried to ignite a rally in the sixth when catcher Jon Hammer's double drove in a run. In the
seventh, pinch hitter Brendan Harris led off with a single and a run scored when Cody Brittain singled. But it wasn't enough.
Nerves showed on the defensive side of the ball in the first inning for both teams. North Harford had two batters reach base on due errors. Cropper, who struck out the first batter, got two more to end the threat. It was his response to every troubling moment. North Harford had runners in scoring position six times but failed to drive in the runs.
The jitters continued in the bottom of the inning but were more costly for North Harford. Bennett's lead off hitter Josh Wyatt reached first on an error. Connor Shockley and Cropper both executed bunts to move him to third. Wyatt later scored on an error that gave Bennett a lead it would not relinquish.
NOTES: In the 1A championship game, Williamsport (15-9), won its second championship with a 2-1 nine-inning victory over Patuxent (19-5). It was its first since 1975. ... In the 2A title game, it was Mountain Ridge (18-7) from Frostburg winning its first state championship, 2-1, in its four year existence, beating St. Michaels, which finished 17-6.