Atholton baseball is at its best when it’s aggressive on the base paths. Leading by a run in the bottom of the fifth inning of Thursday’s Class 3A East Region II quarterfinal against Wilde Lake, the Raiders leaned on that aggressiveness to extend their advantage.
Andrew Huntley intentionally worked his way into a rundown between first and second base. Camryn Williams crept farther off third base, waited for his moment, then sprinted home for the first of three fifth-inning runs. The fourth-seeded Raiders raced away from the No. 5 Wildecats for an 8-4 win, setting up a semifinal at top-seeded River Hill on Saturday.
“Me and Coach were talking about it right before it happened,” Williams said. “Coach was saying, ‘Watch, watch, watch, you have enough speed to get there, but just watch.’ The moment I saw him throw that ball to second base, I broke home and let it all loose.”
The Raiders (8-10) jumped out to an early 1-0 lead after Wildecats starter Derek Fermaint struggled with his command, walking three. Kurtis MacKenzie scored on a wild pitch, but Fermaint was able to limit the damage with a strikeout to end the inning. Fermaint then helped his own cause in the top of the third with a game-tying RBI single.
However, Atholton was quick to respond taking advantage of Wilde Lake’s mistakes. Huntley advanced to third on an errant pickoff attempt by Fermaint and later scored on a double by Diego Carrion. Carrion scored on a base hit to left by Scott Vaszil. The Raiders added runs on an RBI groundout and another Wildecats error.
“That’s always been our offense, it’s always been what made us successful is getting on, getting over and getting them in,” Atholton coach Scott Peddicord said. “Always taking care of the little things, taking advantage of the extra bases we were able to get.”
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Wilde Lake (5-13) mounted its response in the top of the fifth. With the bases loaded, No. 2 hitter Andrew Varga laced a ball to right field that narrowly missed Williams’ diving glove, scoring three and bringing the Wildecats within one. With the tying run in scoring position, Peddicord brought on senior Shane Amato in relief. He quickly struck out Brady McGonigal to preserve the lead.
“I just had to hit my spot,” Amato said. “Just throw strikes, let them hit it and then let the defense work from there.”
After Amato’s strikeout, Atholton displayed its plate discipline. The Raiders drew two of their 11 walks on the afternoon to help ignite the rally. After Williams’ run, MacKenzie and Tyler Geesaman added to the lead with a sacrifice fly and RBI single.
“It was tough,” Wilde Lake coach Steve Fredrick said. “They just happened to respond right away. They have a great coaching staff and we knew they could respond. It took a little wind out of our sails there. I was happy with the way we fought with quality at-bats until the end.”
Linus Byrns shut down Wilde Lake it the seventh to send the Raiders to River Hill. The Raiders beat the Hawks, 11-9, on March 31.
“We’ve just got to fight,” Amato said. “We’ve always had a battle with River Hill every game, we’ve just got to leave everything out on the field.”