North Harford's Nic Hammer told his teammates before Friday's 3A North regional final that only four of the school's previous teams had ever won a regional title, and — if they wanted to be remembered — they needed to be the fifth.
Hammer pitched a complete game, scattering six hits, as the No. 6 Hawks (21-2) scored four runs in the top of the first and defeated No. 11 Franklin, 8-1. Hammer aided his cause offensively by hitting the game's lone home run over the left field fence in the sixth inning.
The game was originally scheduled to be played at Franklin (18-3), but had to be moved to the Yankee Stadium field at the Ripken Baseball Complex in Aberdeen due to field conditions caused by rain.
North Harford advances to the Class 3A state semifinals on Tuesday at Joe Cannon Stadium in Odenton, where they will face the winner of Saturday's LaPlata-Stephen Decatur game.
"There are only a few games each season where I have my fastball, my curve, and my splitter working," Hammer said. "This was one of those games. I was very fortunate to have my offense help me out."
The Hawks offense not only helped Hammer, it sent him to the mound with a 4-0 lead. The first batter of the game, North Harford's Luke Johnson, led off with a double, one of four Hawks hits in the inning, and got two of the runs on a single by Austin Bartenfelder that plated Hammer and Brian Shaffer.
The Indians were able to narrow the lead in the second inning, when Franklin capitalized on one of Hammer's few mistakes. Marcus Miller singled with one out and scored two batters later on a single by Jordan Lee. The Indians still had another runner on third when Hammer stuck out Tyler Silbersack to end the threat.
The Hawks added a run in the fifth, when a single by Josh Garcia scored Shaffer, who had tripled to left field with one out in the inning.
In the sixth, the big blow in the three-run inning for the Hawks came off Hammer's bat.
"I was 0-for-3 going into that at bat, so I wanted a hit," Hammer said. "I was sitting on [Franklin pitcher Silbersack's] curve, and he hung it. I just drove it to left field, and it went out."
Both Hammer and Shaffer were sophomores on the team two years ago when the Hawks won the regional crown, but lost to James M. Bennett from Salisbury in the state title game. Now that they are seniors, both want to complete the task before they leave school.
"We are playing our best games of the season right now," Shaffer said. "This team has great chemistry, and we have found ourselves as a team recently. I feel like we are unstoppable right now."
Franklin coach Kyle Campbell was complimentary of Hammer and North Harford's effort.
"He did a great job, and I tip my hat to him" Campbell said. "It's always hard to get behind by a run or two early, and we got behind by four. They were certainly better than us today."
Class 3A, North
(at Ripken Baseball Complex)
North Harford 8, Franklin 1
NH 400 013 0 – 8 11 0
FR 010 000 0 – 1 6 0
Hammer and Johnson; Lee, Silbersack (5) and Helphenstine. HR: NH – Hamer. 3B: NH – Shaffer. 2B: NH – Johnson, Garcia.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun