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Carroll County Times
Carroll County High School Sports

South Carroll baseball gets clutch defense and pitching to beat Pikesville, 6-4, for regional championship

In playoff baseball, the smallest margin can make the biggest difference.

If Brian Wilder Jr.’s fifth-inning line drive was a foot further to the left, or just a few inches higher, the Pikesville Panthers likely tie South Carroll in their Class 1A North Region I final. Instead, Wilder’s shot was just in the range of Cavaliers shortstop Braden Green, whose lunging catch maintained the lead.

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“That was a smoked line drive, I barely got there,” Green said.

Sophomore relief pitcher Braden Cordrey kept the Panthers at bay in the final two innings as South Carroll claimed the regional championship, 6-4.

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“It was a good team effort today,” Cordrey said. “Bats woke up a bit today, pitchers executed, defense was great. Great team effort.”

South Carroll led 6-3 going into the bottom of the fifth inning. Senior starting pitcher Brayden Stutzman was in the midst of a strong outing, allowing just two hits while striking out seven through four innings.

But two walks and a single loaded the bases for Pikesville with one out, and Cavaliers coach Brian Zawacki made a change to bring in Cordrey.

“We go hand-in-hand,” Stutzman said. “Say he starts, I come in after him, and if I start, he comes in and closes. We always get the job done.”

Cordrey got one out on a pop fly but walked in a run, bringing the Panthers within two with the tying run on second and the go-ahead run at first.

Wilder ripped a shot to left field, but Green was at the right place at the right time to quell the rally.

“‘Catch it,’” Zawacki said of his thoughts when the ball left Wilder’s bat. “Actually the ball was hit so hard I didn’t have time to think. After he caught the ball, I’m like, ‘Yes.’ [Wilder] nailed it, but that’s baseball.”

And the Cavaliers began to breathe a bit easier.

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“There was a lot of relief after that,” Green said. “We felt a lot better coming out of that inning with not any more runs scoring than they did.”

Cordrey sat Pikesville down in order in the sixth. He surrendered a lead-off walk in the seventh, but a double play erased the runner. Another ground out to Green ended the game.

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“I just know I need to execute,” Cordrey said. “When an opportunity like that comes, I’m just being myself, throwing my pitches and I know the team will back me up behind me. “

Stutzman and Cordrey combined for the three-hitter, a one-two punch that is going to make the Cavaliers a tough out as they advance to the state tournament.

“They both throw the ball very well. One’s a senior, one’s a sophomore, but they both love to pitch,” Zawacki said. “They work really hard, they run together, work out together. The mindset is correct right now. The yin and the yang; the reliever and the starter. I have tremendous confidence in both of them. If we can score runs and play good defense, good things should happen with those two pitchers.”

The game was tied at 1 entering the fourth inning. Jackson Strzelczyk, Brady Etzel, Justin Abell and Noah Strzelczyk paraded RBI hits for a 5-1 lead.

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“This was the second time through the lineup, we pretty much saw what he had,” Zawacki said. “We concentrated on hitting strikes and good things happen when you put it in play. Fortunately, we got runs, a bit of breathing room. When we gave up a couple runs, we were still in the lead.”

Pikesville countered with two runs in the bottom of the fourth, but a sacrifice fly from Abell in the fifth gave the Cavaliers their 6-3 lead.

“We battled to the end, that’s something I’ve instilled in them since Day 1,” Pikesville coach Dominic Peters said. “Unfortunately, our goal was to come out and win a championship this year and we just fell a little short. It’ll just motivate us a little bit more this offseason to come back next year, and I’ve already asked to be able to play South Carroll next year in the regular season.”


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