GLENELG, MD — In the high school baseball playoffs, a senior's career can come to a very abrupt end.
On Friday, Glenelg senior Tyler Hoeflich wasn't ready to play his last high school baseball game.
Hoeflich went the distance in a 5-3 opening round win over visiting River Hill (9-8, 11-10), striking out nine and scattering eight hits, three walks and three hit batters.
"He's had a couple of hard luck games," coach Steve Ballance said. "He well deserved it and just bulldogged all the way through."
River Hill took a 2-0 lead in the third inning when freshman Derek Gold roped a two-run single. But Glenelg took the lead in the bottom of the fourth when Chris Ransom hit a two-run double followed by a Jake Franke RBI single.
The game was marred by controversy in the fifth inning on a play that initially appeared to tie the game for the Hawks. Senior Billy Small drew a two-out walk, then tried to score on a double to left center by Gold.
The relay throw to the plate arrived several feet up the third base line as Small was approaching. Small collided with Glenelg catcher Garrett Southern. The contact appeared to be accidental and without malice, but the complicated home plate collision rule dictates that any baserunner who contacts the catcher near the plate must be ejected.
"It didn't seem malicious to me. I know why they threw him out of the game. But I would have been totally fine if they had left him in the game or reversed (the call). I wouldn't have argued," Ballance said. "That's a tough one, and Small is a good player. He hit a game winning home run against us last week (in a 5-3 win). It's a shame. It's a tough way to go out."
The Hawks did tie the game in the top of the sixth on an RBI double by Falan Garner, who moved from first to third to fill in for Small, before moving to second base in the sixth.
"We didn't really like the ejection. We didn't think that was fair," said Garner, who reached on an error to lead off the game and singled and scored in the third. "But I think it was a pretty good season overall, we finished with a winning record."
Garner short hopped a throw from third to first in the bottom of the fifth, allowing Glenelg baserunners on first and third with two outs. But Hawks' rightfielder Brandon Norwood made an outstanding running, diving catch in shallow right field to save at least one run.
"I ended up having to play most infield positions. That kind of messed things up. I played third base in the beginning of the year but I've been playing first mostly so I was out of practice there," said Garner, who hopes to play club baseball for the University of Maryland next spring. "I'm a senior, that was my last game, (but) I've got some more baseball to play."
After Garner's game-tying double in the sixth, the Gladiators rallied with back-to-back RBIs by Nick Goneconto (double) and Davis Jones in the bottom of the inning.
"Both juniors. They came up big. They got behind me and made pitching easy. They worked hard all year and it's paying off," Hoeflich said.
All eight runs in the game were scored with two outs.
River Hill moved the tying run to second with one out in the seventh after back-to-back singles by Jake Howland and Derek Gold, but Hoeflich got out of the jam with his eighth and ninth strikeouts of the game.
"Both teams battled tough and my teammates got behind me, that's all I can ask for," Hoeflich said. "I knew my team had my back and I was just making pitches. I knew my team was going to get me out of there."
The Gladiators (8-9, 10-9) now advance to play county champion Atholton (17-0, 18-1) on Monday in the 3A East regional quarterfinals.
"We can't wait, we're ready to go," Hoeflich said. "Everyone makes the playoffs and everyone has a chance, so if you can get it done in the playoffs that's all that counts."
RH (9-8, 11-10) 002 001 0 - 3 8 4
G (8-9, 11-9) 000 302 x - 5 9 1
Centennial 15, Digital Harbor 1
Jake Vanko pitched a five-inning one-hitter, striking out six. Tyler Morris (3-4, 2 2B, 3 RBI, 3 R) led the offense and Ben Car (1-1, HR, 2 BB, RBI, 2 R) hit a home run.
Long Reach 13, Baltimore City College 1
Hammond 7, McDonough 1
Patuxent 5, Oakland Mills 2
Hammond at Marriotts Ridge
Long Reach at Poly
Centennial at Mt. Hebron
Glenelg at Atholton
Wilde Lake at Reservoir
Howard at Sherwood