Before he settled into the batter’s box for the fifth time, Marcos Mendez looked down the third-base line and listened to his coach’s advice.
Jesse Barnes told his designated hitter to keep his shoulders back and relax at the plate, but stay aggressive and go after a good pitch. Mendez decided the first pitch from South Carroll’s Nick Trey was good enough, and the junior’s single to right-center capped a Westminster comeback Friday afternoon.
Mendez’s RBI hit scored the winning run with two outs in the 10th inning, and the Owls prevailed 2-1.
The junior received his teammates by the bag at first after they spilled out of the home team’s dugout, tossing hats, helmets, and gloves — a clipboard went airborne, too — over their heads in celebration of their walk-off victory in extra innings. For Mendez, he said, it was simply time.
“It wasn’t a very good strike, but I felt confident in myself walking [into the box],” said Mendez, who was 0-for-3 with a walk before his final at-bat. “I was due for a hit.”
Perhaps the Owls (2-4, 2-2 Carroll County Athletic League) felt they were due for a win as well. They started 0-3 this spring, and three of their losses so far have come by 10 or more runs.
Friday’s raw, rainy conditions didn’t seem ideal for smooth pitching performances. But both teams delivered — South Carroll’s JB Berry went seven scoreless innings and struck out nine; Nathan Barber fanned four in five innings for Westminster before giving way to Cory Moran and Jake Sell, who combined for four strikeouts the rest of the way. Trey struck out two in 2 2/3 relief innings.
The Cavaliers (5-2, 3-2) broke through with one out in the ninth when Aidan Greaney lined a home run just over the fence by the foul pole in left field. But the Owls stayed alive in their half of the inning — Riley Warren led off with a single, took second on a wild pitch, and scored on Moran’s base hit to left.
Sell set the Cavs down in order in the 10th, giving Westminster a shot to win it in the bottom of the frame. Haden Hoff reached second with one out on a pop-up that was misjudged, and two batters later Mendez came through.
South Carroll had won three in a row before Friday, and coach Brian Zawacki said missed opportunities cost his team against Westminster.
“We’re just not executing with runners in scoring position,” said Zawacki, whose Cavaliers left 14 on base Friday. “So we’ll go back and practice, kind of work on getting it done.”
The Owls made several stellar defensive plays to snuff out a few SC threats along the way.
Tyler Buberl shined at third more than once. Warren ranged into foul ground near first to snag a ball before tumbling out of play. And Barber, despite allowing five hits and hitting two batters over his first two innings, escaped a few jams on his own.
South Carroll matched the hosts throughout the overcast afternoon with quality pitching and defense.
Berry got out of the fifth after putting the first two batters on base with two strikeouts and a line-out to first. He did it again in the sixth after a pair of walks — strikeout, strikeout, line-out to center.
The Cavs started the seventh with three walks against Moran, but Sell got back to-back strikeouts and a feidler’s choice to stymie the rally.
Greaney and Brady Etzel collected two hits each for SC, and Aidan Moffatt had a double.
Ryan Clatterbuck had two hits for Westminster, which left 10 on base but didn’t wilt when the visitors grabbed the late lead, Barnes said.
The Owls’ longtime assistant coach filled in for Mark Winebrunner, who missed the game while recovering from minor surgery. Barnes credited South Carroll’s pitchers for throwing strikes and getting ahead in the count, and urged his players to stay focused in the box.
“That’s what they did, and that’s when we started hitting,” Barnes said. “It was great. I told them, we can’t get down. We’ve had a rough year so far. Look, at this point … we’ve just got to play hard and dig ourselves back out of this hole.”
South Carroll 000 000 001 0 — 1 7 1
Westminster 000 000 001 1 — 2 8 1
SC-JB Berry, Nick Trey (8) and Nick Malone; W-Nathan Barber, Cory Moran (6), Jake Sell (7) and Haden Hoff. 2B: SC-Aidan Moffatt. HR: SC-Aidan Greaney. WP: Sell. LP: Trey.