ESSEX – The visiting Bobcats held off two late surges Friday afternoon from the third-seeded Eastern Tech squad to bring home the Class 3A North regional baseball title.
It's not the first time they've found a way to win a big game.
"I don't think we're the 'cardiac kids" or anything, but my heart rate is definitely up right now," Bel Air skipper John Swanson said after his team secured a spot in the 3A state tournament. "This was just a great high school baseball game. Eastern Tech is really good, and both of their pitchers had great stuff. The whole season we've found ways to win."
In the state semifinal round, the Bobcats will play 3A West champ North Hagerstown at 7 p.m on Tuesday at Joe Cannon Stadium in Hanover.
Holding a 7-3 lead heading into the bottom of the sixth, the Bobcats ace hurler Tyler Norcross worked his way out of a serious jam. After the leadoff hitter reached base on a passed-ball third strike, Norcross struck out the next batter, but the third man up managed to reach base on a slow roller to third. The fourth Eastern Tech hitter roped an RBI single up the middle, cutting Bel Air's lead to 7-4, and putting the tying run at the plate with only one down. Norcross bore down and got a strikeout, then coaxed an inning-ending flyout to right field.
Norcross nearly added a run to the Bel Air tally all by himself in the top of the seventh, belting a ball deep to left center field, but he was held up rounding third base and had to settle for a triple. The next two Bel Air batters went down in order, leaving the Bobcats up by three runs.
It was more of the same in the seventh, as the hosts managed back-to-back one-out singles to bring the tying run to the plate once again. Norcross fanned one hitter for the second out of the inning, and the next man up loaded the bases with an infield single. With the winning run at the plate, Norcross recorded the final out with a fastball on the outside corner, but not before the Eastern Tech hitter belted a ball that landed just a few fight into foul territory up the right field line.
"Tyler has been our go-to guy all season," Swanson said of his winning pitcher. "He doesn't get rattled. He stays focused. If he doesn't like something he steps off and composes himself. That's not a quality you see all the time."
The game's biggest hit came in the top of the fifth, with Bel Air holding a narrow 4-3 lead. Third baseman Ben Webber came up with one down and one man on base, and blasted a fastball to the gap in left center. Webber motored around for a home run, and Bel Air had a 6-3 advantage.
"We got good at-bats when we needed them today," Swanson said. "Webber's home run was huge for us. Also, the top of our lineup was having a tough time today, and the bottom of the lineup stepped right up and got the hits in key spots."
The Patterson Mill boys were knocked out of contention in the 2A East title game on Friday, as the Huskies, who captured the District VII title on Friday with a win over Harford Tech, lost 5-2 on the road to District VIII champ North Caroline.
Patterson Mill's Blaine Sheesley was 1-for-3 with an RBI double, while James Andrew went 1-for-3 with a double.
Sixth-seeded Havre de Grace was eliminated from the 1A North tournament by the smallest of margins on Friday, with the Warriors losing, 6-5, to top-seeded host Bo Manor in the regional championship round.
Havre de Grace led 5-2 after three innings, but Bo Manor tacked on two runs in the fifth, then scored the tying and winning runs in the sixth.
The Warriors' hot bat belonged to Dominick Bolen, who went 1-for-4 with three RBIs and one run. Corey Thompson was 1-for-3 with two RBIs in the loss, while Luis Nieves, Christian Glassman, Kyle Greskoff and Christian Amici all scored one run.