ABERDEEN, Md.—After more than two hours of tension, the cheers finally rang out at Cal Ripken Stadium.
The Williamsport baseball team completed an unlikely run to the Maryland Class 2A state championship Saturday afternoon, giving the Wildcats something to yell about.
When Tyler Martin slid into home plate in the ninth inning to seal Williamsport’s 2-1 victory over Patuxent, the Wildcats did more than win a title.
They successfully fulfilled their goal of winning a championship in the name of Brendon Colliflower, their teammate who was killed in a car accident on May 5, just before the start of the postseason.
“I know Brendon is looking down,” said Chad Colliflower, Brendon’s father. “I’m sure he was cheering all along. This was a close-knit group of kids. They hung out together after games, they were social networking ... they were just great.
“They played with hearts. They were on a mission for a fallen teammate with a drive to win.”
Williamsport entered the playoffs with a 9-9 record while also dealing with the loss of schoolmate Samantha Kelly, who also died in the crash. Their memories became an inspiration on and off the field for the Wildcats as they won six straight games for the state title.
The Colliflower family was on hand every step of the way, attending five of Williamsport’s six playoff games, including the first, which was the same day as Brendon’s funeral.
“Everything we’ve done has been for No. 6,” said Tyler Byers, Williamsport’s winning pitcher who singled in the bottom of the ninth to begin the winning rally.
The Wildcats made numerous gestures to honor Colliflower during their games, including wearing wrist bands etched with a white No. 6 — Colliflower’s uniform number.
Coach David Warrenfeltz saw a transformation of his team over the course of the season. They endured injuries and off-field problems early in the season. After the accident, amidst an outpouring of support from the community, Warrenfeltz saw a change in the attitudes of the players.
“Every day we got together, sat and talked,” said Warrenfeltz, a Williamsport graduate. “They told each other how much they loved one another and we didn’t have that before. I’m just so happy for the team and for the town. I think this will sink in in the morning.”
All of the emotions brought the Wildcats together for one final championship push.
“Maybe it was Cinderella, maybe it wasn’t, but there are angels with Brendon and Sam,” Chad Colliflower said.