It was a blink-and-you-miss-it region final.
And that is just fine with Old Mill’s Hunter McKean, Nick Cinquanto and Hunter Parish.
McKean tossed a four-hit, 81-pitch shutout and Cinquanto and Parish added RBI doubles as the Patriots won their 10th straight, blanking host and Anne Arundel County champion South River in the Class 4A East Region final, 2-0.
“As you can hear, I don’t really have my voice. This really means a lot to us,” Parish said. “We worked hard to get here and it feels great, although it has not set in yet. I don’t quite realize what’s going on.”
Old Mill won its 10th region title and first since 2003, when coach Mel Montgomery led his team to its third and final state crown. The Patriots play Class 4A West Region champion Walt Whitman Tuesday at Shirley Povich Field.
“As I have watched these guys grow up from sophomores the last three years, you see that confidence and the trust that is big with this year’s team,” said third-year Old Mill coach Charlie Chaffin. “We hitch the wagon to these older guys and let them go.”
It was a 90-minute game, as McKean and South River’s Kavi Caster dueled throughout. Caster also allowed just four hits in a complete-game effort, but Old Mill (15-8) got to him early. Xander Waddell coaxed a one-out walk out of Caster in the top of the first. With two outs, Cinquanto hit a shot that hit the middle of the center field fence for the first run.
The returning tirst-team All County second baseman was hit in the face with an 0-2 fastball in his first at-bat of the season, breaking his left cheek bone and orbital bone. His return has been huge for the Patriots.
“I think Nick returning was the seed for our second-half run,” Chaffin said. “I really underestimated how much that losing him was going to affect the team. I think it really rattled the team and, looking back, it rattled me too. And when he came back healthy, he was happy and just started playing baseball, I think it really picked up the team a lot.”
With that early lead, McKean worked out of a couple jams in the second and fifth. After a Kevin Sieber double had runners on second and third with one out in the second, McKean coaxed a fly ball and recorded one of his two strikeouts. With two on and two out in the fifth, he induced another fly ball out.
“All I did was throw strikes; my team behind me made all the plays I needed,” McKean said. “I got tired at the end, but I just had to push through. I don’t think about it too much. I just throw strikes and let them hit.”
McKean has tremendous control. He came into the region final with a 46-5, strikeout to walk ratio and did not walk a batter Friday. The Seahawks (16-7) got the bat on the ball, but more often than not, it went right to an Old Mill player.
“It was a fun game. Frustrating, but fun,” South River coach Brian Camper said. “When you hit so many balls hard and on the nose, and they go right at guys...that’s baseball. Unfortunately, it did not go our way today.”
Caster had three strikeouts and gave his team every opportunity to win the game.
“As a senior, I know he wanted a better outcome, but what can you say? He threw his heart out,” Camper said.
Parish gave his team the necessary buffer when he hit a two-out RBI double in the sixth to plate Ian Adams, who had doubled himself one batter earlier.
The Patriots at one point were 5-8, but the veteran Parish is all smiles now.
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“I didn’t even realize that it had been 10 in a row,” Parish said. “At the beginning of the season, we started off rough, but we got in a groove and got some things working. The train started moving.”
Of his battery mate, McKean, who improved to 6-1 and lowered his 0.75 ERA coming in, Parish could only widen his smile.
“With him, it is always a pleasure,” Parish said. “He comes out every single game throwing strikes, getting ahead, and his offspeed is working. He is filthy and I cannot wait to see what he looks like in the future.”
The trust and confidence Chaffin spoke of has translated to a calm approach in clutch situations late.
“McKean is a calm kid and never loses his composure. We have gotten out of several jams the past couple weeks. Against Severna Park, we had a bases-loaded situation with nobody out and (Kyle) Summers gets out surrendering just one run. As we have matured as a team the second half of the season, we don’t panic in those situations.”
Any number of balls could have fallen and the Seahawks may be talking about their first region crown since 2013. However, 16 wins and a county title in his first year is quite a debut for Camper.
“I thanked the seniors. When we have future success, they will know that they played a role in that,” Camper said.