The Fallston Cougars baseball team has had a decent amount of late-game success recently, but it ran out Tuesday night in a Class 2A state semifinal loss to Middletown.
The Cougars (13-9) fell 5-1 to the Knights (18-6) at Montgomery Blair High School.
Middletown pitcher Jackson McDaniel had the Cougars shut down without a hit or walk for five innings.
“Nothing special, just couldn’t quite get him figured out. He was throwing two or three pitches for strikes, we were taking some very hittable pitches,” Cougars manager Grant Morlock said of his team’s struggles against McDaniel. “Just getting themselves in tougher counts and against a good pitcher and a team like this, it’s tough to do and it’s tough to play behind the way we did today.”
Middletown scored three times in the second inning and then added single runs in the fourth and fifth innings.
In the second, Zach Houck and Graham Brown hit RBI doubles and Jacob Pryor added an RBI single, all off Cougars starting pitcher Josh Bogdan.
In the fourth, Gage Queen hit a leadoff single and was sacrificed to second by Pryor. A Brown single put runners on the corners and Trevor Woelkers hit a sacrifice fly that scored Queen.
In the fifth, Bogdan walked Chase Weller and Paul McHugh with one out. Bogdan got the next batter Houck to ground into a fielder’s choice.
Cougars shortstop Kyle Moody got the force out on McHugh at second, but his throw to first was just wild enough to pull first baseman Connor Pickle off the base and leave runners at the corners again.
With Queen at bat, Houck took off early for second. Bogdan, in his desire to get Houck out and end the inning, threw to second but it was too high for Dillon Sperl and rolled into centerfield, allowing courtesy runner Kaleb Kline to score easily from third.
The Cougars, meanwhile, still had to figure out McDaniel. Andrew Noyes did just that with a single leading off the sixth inning.
McDaniel struck out the next batter, but Jake Bogdan drew a walk. Chris Emm then followed with a liner to right, driving in pinch runner Ben Armstrong with the Cougars lone run.
“It seemed like he was throwing a lot of first-pitch fastballs and I was just trying to jump on one early before he could get to his off-speed,” Emm said. “I was able to put a good swing on it.”
Alex Baily also singled in the inning to load the bases, but McDaniel got the next two batters out to end the threat.
The Cougars went to work again in the bottom of the seventh. Josh Bogdan singled on the first pitch from McDaniel and Kyle Moody and Noyes then drew back-to-back walks to load the bases.
And the Cougars had the tie run at the plate.
Middletown though, went to the bullpen and brought in Brown for relief.
Brown took all three batters he faced to deep counts, but he got both Jesse Schuster and Jake Bogdan out on fly balls and before getting Emm to ground out to second for the game-ending force.
The Knights pounded out 10 hits, with Brown having a 4-for-4 game.
Josh Bogdan pitched five innings in the loss, allowing eight hits and four walks.
“It was a rocky season, back-and-forth, good and bad, but I’m just really proud of these guys for putting in the effort and putting in the work, day in and day out,” Emm said. “And continuing to fight throughout the end of the season even if we were down 5-1 in the seventh inning.”
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Manager Morlock echoed Emm’s words. “I’m just proud of the fight we showed, down 5-0 and if you were to come here and not see a scoreboard, you’d have no idea what the score was,” he said. “We’ve always said what we’re gonna do is, we’re gonna get the tying run to the plate and that was our goal in the seventh and we did it. Did things work out in the end? They didn’t, but I wasn’t surprised with the way that this team fought there in the seventh inning. I knew they weren’t going to go away quietly, but we just ran into a good team.”