If Monday afternoon's Opening Day game between Marriotts Ridge and Hammond is any indication of things to come, the 2016 Howard County baseball season is going to be a good one.
The Mustangs held off the Golden Bears, 6-5, in a rematch of last year's regional playoffs.
"It's the first game. It was very cold and very windy," Marriotts Ridge coach Paul Eckert said. "I thought the kids did a good job overcoming the elements playing baseball in football weather. It's early."
The game featured a starting pitching matchup between two of the brighest stars in the league. Hammond senior lefty David Hutchison and Marriotts Ridge junior righty Gunnar Barnard are both preseason all-state selections with college baseball in their future.
However, it was obvious after the first inning that both aces were battling the conditions and will likely have better performances ahead of them.
Marriotts Ridge's Chris Morath, the league's top returning batter, hit the ground running by belting a solo home run with one out in the top of the first to give his team a 1-0 lead. But Hammond took the lead back in the bottom of the frame on a leadoff double by dynamic shortstop DaVonn Griffin followed by an RBI single from Sam Wiedorfer, who eventually stole home for the go-ahead run.
Barnard (5 IP, 6 H, 4 K, 1 BB, 3 R) mowed through the bottom of the Golden Bears line-up in the second, but the home team extended its lead to 3-1 in the third when Griffin (3-4, 2B, SB, 3 R) singled, stole second and scored on an RBI single by JJ Woodson.
"It was pretty difficult (to pitch) because the wind was affecting the way my ball moved. No matter what I threw it was going the other way," Barnard said.
But despite the adversity on the mound, Barnard found a way to take control with his bat two innings later when he ripped a two-run double off the center field fence to give his team a 5-3 lead. The big blow in the three-run inning came after singles by David Franko, Joey Fellona and leadoff hitter Mark Augustino (RBI).
"I needed to step up for my team and just did what I had to do," Barnard said.
Hammond reliever Joseph Sarich pitched a scoreless sixth, despite walking the first three batters he faced, but the Mustangs added an insurance run in the seventh when junior shortstop Colin Kratochwill singled home Morath for his second RBI of the game.
That run proved to be pivotal, as Wiedorfer (3-4, 3 RBIs) hit a clutch two-out, two-run single in the bottom of the seventh to bring the potential winning run to the plate.
Mustangs reliever Tyler Bohan worked a groundout to second to close out the victory, though.
"We came up short there but I'm really excited with what I'm seeing," Hammond coach Casey Medairy said. "It's good baseball."
MR (1-0) 100 130 1 - 6 9 2
Ha (0-1) 201 000 2 - 5 8 1
Barnard, Bohan (6) and Fellona. Hutchison, Sarich (6) and Walls.
2B: MR — Barnard; Ha — Griffin. HR: MR — Morath.
Atholton 1, Reservoir 0
Blake James dazzled in his 2016 debut, tossing a complete game 1-hit shutout with five strikeouts and only one walk. In the third inning, Brian Cook drove home Connor McManus for the only run of the game. Freshman catcher Zack Snow doubled and caught a baserunner stealing, while Cook, McManus and Thibeault each collected two hits.
Glenelg 4, Oakland Mills 0
Senior Garrett Gravanda pitched a complete game shutout for the Gladiators, allowing four hits and two walks while striking out five.
Tucker Garufi (HR), Hank Koele (2B, SB), Connor McIntyre (2B, 2 RBI) and Cole Yungmann (2-3, RBI, SB) paced the Glenelg offense.
Howard 11, Long Reach 1
JR Faulkner pitched the Lions to victory, as Eric Greenbaum ended the game early with a walk-off double.
Mark Wicklein singled, doubled, and scored Long Reach's only run.
River Hill 2, Centennial 0
Josh Mann and Connor Atkins faced off in a pitcher's duel, but Mann (1 H, 9 K) got a little run support to make the difference in River Hill's 2-0 win.
Glenelg Country 6, Pallotti 3 (MIAA B)
A two-run double by Jack Adamson in the bottom of the fifth put the Dragons back in the lead, then they added to it with a Brendan Grady double and an RBI single by Tyler Kitchen in the sixth. Tim Oh allowed only four hits and one earned run in almost six innings of work, and Tyler Russo (3 K) put out the fire on a bases loaded jam in the sixth on his way to earning the save.
Mt. Hebron at Wilde Lake
Glen Burnie at Centennial
Meade at Oakland Mills
Annapolis Area Christian at Glenelg Country (MIAA B)
Marriotts Ridge, 1-0
River Hill, 1-0
Mt. Hebron, 0-0
Wilde Lake, 0-0
Howard County Times: Top stories
Long Reach, 0-1
Oakland Mills, 0-1
Glenelg Country, 2-0 (MIAA B)
Chapelgate, 0-0 (MIAA C)