Garrett Gibson looks more like an offensive tackle than a first baseman, but underestimate his abilities at your own peril. Parkside learned that on Saturday.
Gibson hit a single to center field with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh to give No. 15 Southern of Anne Arundel County (17-9) its first-ever baseball state title with a 3-2 win over Salisbury's Parkside (20-4).
Gibson also contributed Southern's only extra-base hit and made a sparkling defensive play in the second inning when he jumped high in the air to snare a line drive.
"I've worked my entire life for a moment like that," Gibson said of his walk-off winner. "I don't even remember much about it. I just wanted to get to first base."
After he did, he was mobbed by his teammates.
"That just tells you a lot about our team," he said. "We never do things the easy way. We thrive on that."
The ending capped a dramatic seventh inning that saw the Bulldogs win the game both on offense and defense.
With the score tied, 2-2, and Parkside batting in the top of the seventh, the Rams got a leadoff single. After a fielder's choice put Parkside's Adam McKinney on first, McKinney stole second to get into scoring position. Southern starter Steve Hogan stuck out the next batter for the second out, bringing up Parkside's Matt Smith.
Smith singled to left field, but Southern outfielder Mitchell Johnson threw a perfect strike to Bulldogs catcher T.J. Gleeson at home plate. Gleeson easily tagged out McKinney to preserve the tie.
"I saw him running, and I knew I could get him," Johnson said. "It's something we practice a lot. I got the ball to T.J., and he put a perfect tag on him."
The Bulldogs led off the bottom of the inning with a single up the middle by DJ Coleman. He was followed by Alec Conrad, who laid a bunt down the first base line. Parkside pitcher Hunter Parsons reached down to pick up the ball, but couldn't grasp it, leaving runners on first and second.
Southern's Dillon Waters, the next batter, dropped a perfect bunt down the third base line to load the bases. Parkside changed pitchers, bringing in senior Kyle Skilling. Truman Thomas reached on a fielder's choice, but Coleman was forced out at home. That brought Gibson to the plate.
With the infield drawn in, he deposited a 1-0 pitch into shallow centerfield for the game winner.
"People write Garrett off because of his body type, but he's a great hitter," said Southern coach Frank Hood. "In our last two games he's had six RBI and five base hits. That was the last game of [organized] baseball he'll ever play, and you couldn't ask for a better ending."
Hood was quick to compliment his seniors and their leadership in the decisive seventh inning.
"They kept their heads, and now they know how great a feeling this is," said Hood, who won state titles at Arundel both as a player and an assistant coach. "They have a lifetime of memories that no one can ever take away from them."
(at Ripken Stadium, Aberdeen)
15 Southern-AA 3, Parkside 2
PA 010 100 0 – 2 7 1
SO 000 110 1 - 3 7 1
Parsons, Skilling (7) and Goertzen; Hogan and Gleeson. 3B: PA – McKinney. 2B : PA – Shreeves; SO - Gibson.