Joe Cannon Stadium, Hanover – After a one-year absence from the state title round, the North Harford boys are headed back to Ripken Stadium once again to try for their first Maryland baseball crown after the Hawks dispatched LaPlata, 8-2, Tuesday in the 3A state semifinals.
Tuesday was a rematch, with the opposite result, of the 2011 3A semifinal when LaPlata walked off the field at Joe Cannon Stadium after 15 innings with a 2-1 victory. This time, North Harford cruised to the win, scoring at least once every inning after the second, while Hawk starter Brian Shaffer held LaPlata scoreless until the bottom of the seventh.
"I've had some very good teams, ones with great pitching and great defense, but I don't think I've had one that could hit this well, all the way around." North Harford skipper Tim Larrimore said after the semifinal win. "They were incredible tonight. Everybody in the lineup got a hit. It's nice to be able to put something like that together in a state semifinal game."
Heading into the bottom of the seventh, Shaffer was within three outs of a four-hit shutout, but LaPlata had three more hits and two runs against the North Harford ace.
"I'm not sure what happened out there in the seventh," Shaffer said. "I didn't feel tired at all. They just got around on a couple of pitches. I felt like everything was working for me tonight. I had all my pitches, was locating well, throwing strikes."
"Brian is amazing on the mound," Larrimore said. "He mixes up pitches so well. He threw everything he had tonight, and changed his stuff from inning to inning, depending on the situation."
Shaffer had 10 strikeouts without issuing as walk in seven innings. Larrimore said he plans to give Shaffer the start against Reservoir on Saturday in the 3A state title game at Ripken Stadium.
"I'll be ready to pitch," Shaffer said. "I probably won't even lift my arm up until Saturday night."
The Hawks broke the scoreless tie in the top of the third when Brandon Plummer hi an RBI single that scored Austin Bartenfelder, who led off the inning with a double.
The Aegis: Top stories
In the fourth, North Harford's Nic Hammer earned a one-out walk, which brought Shaffer to plate. On the first pitch offered to him, Shaffer blasted a shot over the center field wall, giving the Hawks a 3-0 advantage.
"Their pitcher threw me nothing but breaking balls the first time I came up, and he struck me out," Shaffer said. "He kind of made me look dumb up there, so I said the next time I got up, I was looking for a breaking ball on the first pitch. That's what he threw me."
North Harford catcher Luke Johnson came up with two down in the fifth and knocked a 2-1 pitch just inside the left field foul pole for the second homer of the game.
"Those home runs always help," Larrimore said. "We've got power all through this lineup."
North Harford's Scott Angstadt put the Hawks up, 6-0, with a two-RBI single in the sixth, and Plummer added his second RBI of the night later in the inning to put North Harford up, 7-0.
Josh Garcia delivered a two-out, full-count single in the top of the seventh that scored Richie Greene for the Hawks' final run.
Saturday's 3A championship game with Reservoir is set to start at 7 p.m. Neither Reservoir or North Harford has ever won a state baseball championship.