Denis Ahearn has known for a couple years that his 2021 Centennial baseball team could be “special.”
But after the 2020 season was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, Ahearn didn’t know if the Eagles — stacked with both excellent pitchers and mature hitters — would get the chance this spring.
The difficulty of last year and the doubt of whether there would even be a season, Ahearn said, made his team’s county championship-clinching victory over Howard on Tuesday that much sweeter.
“This is every coach’s dream. You want to put together a complete squad, and we have that,” Ahearn said. “To do it coming out of COVID is something that’s even more special. When these seniors were sophomores, I knew they were going to be special. To be able to come out here and have the season we’ve had and to have the young guys come up to add to the effort has been awesome.”
On the backs of a five-run two-out rally in the fourth, a gutsy start from senior Conarie Steinbach and the calm relief of freshman Zachary Harris, Centennial (10-1) beat the Lions 7-5 to claim the Eagles’ first county crown since 2007.
Steinbach exited after five solid innings with the Eagles winning 7-1, but the Lions’ bats came alive against Centennial reliever Carter Watson, who allowed the first five batters he faced to reach base. Harris, a soft-spoken righty, came in with two runners on and no outs, and two batters later, Howard was down only two runs and the Lions had the bases loaded against the freshman.
Harris then showed why Ahearn put him in the game, striking out the next batter, inducing a shallow flyout and then ending the threat with a groundout to keep the Eagles’ two-run advantage.
“He’s a freshman who we’ve used in this sort of relief setting. I’ve told him he’s my guy I’m going to in the middle of the inning,” Ahearn said. “He’s a kid who has good action on his ball, has more than one pitch and he hits some spots. He keeps guys off balance, and he throws strikes, which is what you need to do in a situation like that.”
Harris, one of several talented youngsters on the Eagles, stayed out for the seventh and pitched a scoreless frame for the save.
“I was a little nervous but I knew all I had to do was throw strikes and good things would happen,” Harris said. “It felt amazing. Being out there and having all these seniors behind me who have been working so hard, I’m just glad I could come through.”
The game at Centennial High School didn’t start the way most games for the Eagles have recently.
Centennial entered the game with six shutouts in its last seven games — a feat that’s almost unimaginable at any level of baseball. Two of those shutouts had been pitched by Steinbach, who was not his usual self Tuesday but had enough fortitude to push through and earn the win.
After allowing an unearned run in the first, Steinbach didn’t allow another run in his next four innings, ending his outing with only one hit allowed, five walks and four strikeouts in five innings.
“In the first inning, I quickly noticed I didn’t have my best stuff,” said Steinbach, whose first shutout this year was in an 11-strikeout win over Marriotts Ridge two weeks ago. “I just had to try my best to find something that worked and keep grinding.
Howard led 1-0 until the third inning when Centennial two-hitter Chris Betler belted a triple to right center field to score Jack Pistner.
“I’ve been working on driving the ball to the opposite field,” Betler said. “I saw a great pitch I could take advantage of there.”
The contest looked as if it was going to be a low-scoring one — with Howard’s bats cold against Steinbach and Howard pitcher Van Switzer pitching well — but the Eagles went on an impressive two-out rally in the fourth to go up six runs.
After Switzer, who sported a sharp curve in the first few frames, retired the first two Centennial hitters, the next seven Eagles reached base to plate five runs. Charles Schmitt started it off with a single, and Sawyer Wickstrom kept it going with a walk. Pistner then singled home a run to make it 3-1. It looked like the inning would end when Betler struck out, but the nasty curveball evaded Howard’s catcher, and Betler reached on a wild pitch.
Brothers Qwynn and Cadeyrn Ahearn, Denis Ahearn’s sons, both then drove in runs with RBI singles.
Steinbach said the team has a nice mix of experienced seniors and talented underclassmen like the Ahearn brothers, Harris and others who balance out the roster.
“We have this great senior class, but we have a lot of underclassmen like Zippy and others who come in and shine in big times too,” said Steinbach.
Howard (6-5) didn’t give up after going down 7-1, though. Ben Fader walked to start the sixth, while Daniel Kim and Nathan Dawes, both of whom ended the day 2 for 4 at the plate, both singled to load the bases. Pinch-hitter Terry Saunders then drove home two runs with a double to right field, and Cooper Haberern followed him with an RBI single.
Harris then came into the game to escape the jam.
The regular season is over for both teams, who now await the MPSSAA playoff seedings. The regional playoffs begin Monday.
Centennial 7, Howard 5
…..... 123 456 7 — R H E
Ho — 100 004 0 — 5 6 1
C — 002 500 x — 7 8 2
W: C — C. Steinbach; L: Ho — V. Switzer; SV: C — Z. Harris.
2B: Ho — T. Saunders.
3B: C — C. Betler.
SB: C — D. Watson, C. Betler, Q. Ahearn; Ho — B. Fader.
OTHER BASEBALL SCORES:
Long Reach 3, Wilde Lake 0
Brandon Bartolotta delivered a sparkling effort both at the plate (3-3, 2 doubles, 2 RBI, run) and on the pitcher’s mound (7 innings, 8 strikeouts, 4 hits, 2 walks, 0 runs) to help lead the Lightning (5-6) to the road win over the Wildecats (1-8).
It’s the first time this spring that Wilde Lake has been held to fewer than two runs.
Long Reach struck in the top of the first with a RBI groundout from J.P. Tennant and then got additional runs on RBI hits from Bartolotta in the third and fifth innings. Other standout on the day were Cole Bosley (2-3, run) and Cole Fleischer (1-3).
.. 123 456 7 R-H-E
LR 101 010 0 3-6-0
WL 000 000 0 0-4-0
River Hill 9, Marriotts Ridge 4
After a back-and-forth first few innings, which saw the visiting Mustangs (5-6) take a one-run lead in the third inning and then tie the game at 4-4 in the top of the fourth, River Hill (8-2) took the lead for good with a five-run bottom half of the fourth inning.
The Hawks’ Ryan Pickus led all hitters with three hits to go along with 2 RBI, while Ehi Okojie added a 2-RBI day as well.
.. 123 456 7 R-H-E
MR 003 100 0 4-10-1
RH 112 500 x 9-12-0
Glenelg 4, Hammond 1
The Gladiators (8-3) defeated the Golden Bears (4-7) to close the regular season with four straight victories.
Pitchers Harrison Hobdy (5 innings, 0 runs, 3 hits) and Jackson Kelley (2 innings, 1 run, 2 hits) combined to keep the Hammond bats in check. Then, on offense, Braeden Sumpter (2-3, double, run), Todd Calhoun (1-2, double), Logan Pusheck (1-3, double, 2 RBI, run) and DJ Stolba (1-3, double, RBI) were all standouts for Glenelg.
Anthony Cline pitched the complete game for Hammond, while Chase Johnson had a double and single offensively. The Golden Bears got their lone run on a SAC fly by Ryan DeLeon.
Wilde Lake 12, Long Reach 1
The Wildecats (6-4) snapped a three-game losing skid by earning the five-inning win over the visiting Lightning (3-8). Heather McQueeney reached base four times (2-2, home run, two walks, 4 RBI, 3 runs) to lead the way for a Wilde Lake offense that scored five times in both the first and fourth innings. Morgan Baird also added a 3-3 day with 2 runs and 1 RBI.
Lauren Jascewsky (1-2, 2 RBI, run) and Erin Conover (2-3, double, 2 RBI, run) were the other Wilde Lake players to have multiple RBI.
Justyce Richard threw a complete game for the Wildecats, finishing with eight strikeouts while allowing just three hits and a single unearned run in the third inning.
.. 123 45 R-H-E
LR 001 00 1-3-3
WL 511 5x 12-8-1
Glenelg 6, Hammond 2
Trailing the Golden Bears (4-7) by two runs going to the bottom of the fourth, the Gladiators (8-3) scored twice to tie the game and then added four more runs in the sixth to create the separation needed to pull out the win.
Megan Ortwein (7 innings, 8 strikeouts, 6 hits and 2 runs allowed) got the win at pitcher, while Serafina Tinio delivered the back-breaking hit with a grand slam home run in the sixth. Sage Huber (2 runs) and Lily Oakes were the Glenelg players to finish with multiple hits.
Samara Lenz had a two-hit day for Hammond.
.. 123 456 7 R-H-E
Ha 010 100 0 2-6-0
G 000 204 x 6-8-0
Howard 13, Centennial 0
Katie Green pitched the no-hitter for the Lions (9-2) against the Eagles (2-9), striking out nine and issuing just a couple walks. Green also was one of three Howard players, joined by Lindsey Smith and Angie Tyler, to finish the game with 3 RBI. Tyler and Maddie Coleman had three hits apiece, while Coleman, Green and Kaylee Delosantos all had triples.
Howard finishes alone in second place in the county standings.
.. 123 45 R-H-E
Ho 183 01 13-15-1
C 000 00 0-0-2
River Hill 6, Marriotts Ridge 5
The Hawks (7-4) held off the visiting Mustangs (7-4) to finish the regular season on a high note.
A three-run bottom of the fifth turned out to be the difference in a game that had three lead changes. In that decisive inning, Ella Wood and Ever Sheplee had big singles to go along with a bases loaded walk from Abby Shim.
Sara Emig (3-4, 2 RBI, run) and Kathleen Maiorana (2-4, 2 RBI, run) were the River Hill players to finish with multiple hits and multiple RBI.
Wood pitched the first five innings, striking out six, before Lux Sheplee came on in relief in the sixth and didn’t allow a hit over her two frames. Defensively, Allie Young made the play of the day when she made a catch in right field and then gunned down a runner at third that was tagging from second to end an inning.
Ashleigh Gerber (2-4, 3 RBI, run) got things going for Marriotts Ridge with a 2-run homerun in the first inning. Bridget Farrell (2-4, run) and Sarah Fan (2-4, 2 runs) added multi-hit days for the Mustangs, while Leah Chen added a RBI double.
.. 123 456 7 R-H-E
MR 201 011 0 5-11-2
RH 120 030 x 6-10-2
Glenelg 21, Centennial 0
There were 13 different Gladiators (6-0) that scored goals in the shutout win over the Eagles (3-4). Emma Kennedy (4 goals), Sarah Johnson (3 goals, assist) and Molly Metz (2 goals, 2 assists) were the scoring leaders, while Maura Murphy and Isa Torres dominated the draw.
Goals: G – Emma Kennedy 4, Sarah Johnson 3, Molly Metz 2, Maura Murphy 2, Carleigh Callahan 2, Sophie Cipolla, Isa Torres, Ainsley Towle, Chloe Birkhead, Alex Krohn, Caitlyn Baehr, Lauren LaPointe, Reese Allnutt.
Assists: G — LaPointe 2, Allnutt 2, Metz 2, Madeline Key, Johnson.
Saves: G — Jocelyn Torres 3; C — Julia Na 4.
River Hill 19, Reservoir 9
The Hawks (1-4) put up their highest goal total of the season on the way to beating the Gators (4-2) for the team’s first win.
Molly Maloney (7 goals, assist), Claire Slade (5 goals) and Maddie Vasilios (3 goals, 2 assists) were the offensive leaders, while Ella Ferrer was the River Hill leader with six draw controls.
Alana Leak led Reservoir with three goals.
Goals: RH — Maloney 7, Slade 5, Vasilios 3, Miller 2, Kim, Schwab; Re — Leak 3, Thayer 2, Ripkin 2, Rowell, Hill.
Assists: RH — Vasilios 2, Deng, Maloney, Ferrer; Re — N/A.
Halftime: 12-5 RH.
Glenelg 11, Centennial 10
The Gladiators (6-1) edged the Eagles (4-3) by a goal to sweep the regular season series between the two teams.
Colin Buch (4 goals, 2 assists), Evan Whatley (3 goals, 2 assists) and Kevin Doughty (goal, 4 assists) did the heavy lifting offensively for Glenelg in the win.
Andrew Hockersmith (3 goals, 3 assists), Josh Flick (2 goals, assist), Jake Ritter (2 goals, assist) and Sam Bussink (2 goals, assist) led the Eagles offensively, while goalie Alex Kaufman made 16 saves.
Goals: G — Colin Buch 4, Evan Whatley 3, Kevin Doughty, Nick Dalton, Rocco Buscher, Jon Nagle; C — Andrew Hockersmith 3, Josh Flick 2, Jake Ritter 2, Sam Bussink 2, James MacLellan.
Assists: G — Doughty 4, Buch 2, Whatley 2, Nagle, Wyatt Haney; C — Hockersmith 2, Flick, Ritter, Bussink. Saves: G — N/A; C — Alex Kaufman 16.
River Hill 12, Reservoir 6
The Hawks (1-6) broke through for their first victory of the season by defeating the Gators (4-2). Jack Burns (5 goals, 2 assists) and Devin Campbell (3 goals) finished as the multi-goal scorers for River Hill.
Steven Musser (2 goals, 2 assists) and Sean Maruschak (2 goals) were the offensive leaders for the Gators, who also got 18 saves from goalie Nick Hoover.
Goals: RH — Jack Burns 5, Devin Campbell 3, Wes Brunett, Kevin Herrera, Tyler Sutch, Ethan Varani; Re — Steven Musser 2, Sean Maruschak 2, Joey Schinner, Jakota Parker.
Assists: RH — Burns 2, Justin Shaw, Brunett, Will Gochar, Herrera; Re — Musser 2, Schinner.
Saves: RH — Kyle Henry 9, Charlie Kluckhuhn 2; Re — Nick Hoover 18.
Halftime: 4-2 RH.
River Hill 5, Marriotts Ridge 0
The Hawks won the battle of undefeated teams with a sweep to wrap-up this year’s county team championship.
No. 1 singles: Alex Artazov, RH def. Pedro Arantes Gabriel, MR (8-0)
No. 2 singles: Sebastian Lair, RH def. Rafa Feldman, MR (8-3)
No. 1 doubles: Zach Lee and Ibrahim Khan, RH def. Shreyas Rath and Sai Charan Chodavarapu, MR (8-6)
No. 2 doubles: Jai Khanna and Aaron Liebskind, RH def. Revanth Bairi and Alex Wang, MR (8-4)
No. 3 doubles: Daniel Maiorana and Ansh Sawhney, RH def. Ethan Bernstein and Colin Wang, MR (8-2)
Glenelg 5, Hammond 0
No. 1 singles: Lukas Zukalskis, G def. Austin Uwimana, Ha (8-0)
No. 2 singles: Daniel Danko, G def. Colin Ward, Ha (8-0)
No. 1 doubles: Caleb Taylor and John Masterman, G def. Tyler Prudhomme and Hussain Masood Ha (8-0)
No. 2 doubles: Mitch Steinberg and Daniel Zheng, G def. Huy Tran and Brandon Nguyen, Ha (8-1)
No. 3 doubles: Will Sloan and Grady Cronkite, G def. Sohan Modi and Gabe Porter, Ha (8-5)
Howard 3, Centennial 2
No. 1 singles: Andrew Au, Ho def. Vijay Jagarapu, C (8-5)
No. 2 singles: Niko Bifsas, Ho def. Aadarsh Govada, C (8-1)
No. 1 doubles: Danny Ho and Ryan Huang, C def. Alex Brousseau and Richie Pemberton, Ho (8-4)
No. 2 doubles: Tyler H. Lin and Keshav Ganapathy, C def. Savvas Bifsas and Tyson Nguyen, Ho (7-1, Howard retired due to injury)
No. 3 doubles: Charlie Veihmeyer and Jeff Harvey, Ho def. Michael He and Charlie Lu, C (8-5)
River Hill 3, Marriotts Ridge 2
In thrilling fashion, the Hawks remained undefeated and joined their boys counterparts as county champions this spring. At three doubles, the duo of Rebecca Ni and Ella Jido overcame an 8-4 deficit in the tie break to prevail 10-8 and win the deciding match by a score of 9-8 overall.
No. 1 singles: Adelaide Houston, RH def. Varsha Devireddy, MR (8-0)
No. 2 singles: Marine Malik, RH def. Amrutha Alibili, MR (8-5)
No. 1 doubles: Anna Ottman and Gabby Tseytlin, MR def. Siri Jale and Priyanka Ramulu, RH (8-3)
No. 2 doubles: Charita Sandoze and Hashini Amarasinghe, MR def. Riya Patel and Elinor Tu, RH (8-6)
No. 3 doubles: Rebecca Ni and Ella Jido, RH def. Srinidhi Arumugam and Megan Wagner, MR (9-8, 10-8)
Glenelg 3, Hammond 2
No. 1 singles: Shivaani Selvan, Ha def. Ava Stamatakis, G (8-1)
No. 2 singles: Janel McCray, Ha def, Ainsley Pursel, G (8-0)
No. 1 doubles: Ally Abruscuto and Kousalya Gaddam, G def. Ronia Agyeman and Megan Martin Ha (8-1)
No. 2 doubles: Arianna Moadeli and Kate Kim, G def. Olivia Ametewee and Mayuri Chakkara Ha (8-2)
No. 3 doubles: Meghana Puri and Rukmini Gaddam, G def. Cingh Cing and Emma Ukoh, Ha (8-0)
Centennial 3, Howard 2
No. 1 singles: Audrey Oaksmith, C def. Varsha Kantheli, Ho (8-1)
No. 2 singles: Sarika Kapadia, C def. Media Hegde, Ho (8-1)
No. 1 doubles: Corinne Chau and Viola Yu, Ho def. Rose Huang and Michelle Fradlin, C (8-6)
No. 2 doubles: Presely Caroland and Mariana Kim, Ho def. Shreya Vallimanalan and Joanna Blackman, C (8-2)
No. 3 doubles: Sarah Blackman and Shriya Reddy, C def. Shannon Clifford and Amelia Krieg, Ho (9-8, 10-3)
TRACK & FIELD:
Half of the county’s track teams competed Tuesday in a meet at Marriotts Ridge. Howard swept the meet, winning the girls side by 90 points and the boys side by 59.
Howard’s Ibrahim Khairat was the top boys performer, winning three gold medals. He finished first in the long jump and the high jump as well as running the first leg of the Lions’ gold-medal winning 4x100-meter relay. Other double-winners on the boys side were River Hill’s Julian Vissering (100 and 200), Centennial’s Liam Lovering (discus and shot put) and Howard’s Emmanuel Omole (high jump and 4x100).
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Howard’s Tahlea Murray was the lone triple-winner on the girls side, finishing first in the 100 hurdles, long jump and triple jump. Other female double-winners were River Hill’s Janasia Buckner (100 and 200) and Centennial’s Liv Ragonese (discus and shot put).
Boys: 1. Howard 152; 2. Reservoir 93; 3. Marriotts Ridge 91; 4. River Hill 71; 5. Centennial 51; 6. Wilde Lake 34.
Girls: 1. Howard 192; 2. Reservoir 102; 3. Marriotts Ridge 65; 4. Centennial 63; 5. River Hill 60; 6. Wilde Lake 17.
Boys: 100-meter dash: Julian Vissering, Reservoir, :11.19; 200: Vissering, :22.64; Samuel Akolo, River Hill, :53.21; 110 hurdles: Trey Montgomery, Marriotts Ridge, :17.72; 300 hurdles: Christian Do, Howard, :44.42; 800: Jacob Cole, Centennial, 2:01; 1,600: Michael Wade, Marriotts Ridge, 4:31; 3,200: Bryce Handa, River Hill, 10:22; 4x100 relay: Howard (Ibrahim Khairat, Emmanuel Omole, Lane Carter, Sang Lee), :45.2; 4x200: Wilde Lake (Rashad Russell, Sean Barnes, Tele Abe, Nazeer England), 1:36; 4x400: Marriotts Ridge (Vignesh Lella, Brian Lau, Joseph Larson, Max Crockett), 3:48; 4x800: River Hill (John Hadeed Jr., Kevin McAllister, Daniel Wang, Garrett Fulton), 9:06; Discus: Liam Lovering, Centennial, 152 feet-8 inches; Shot put: Lovering, 54-2; High jump: Omole, 5-6; Long jump: Khairat, 21-6.5; Triple jump: Khairat, 44-3.5.
Girls: 100: Janasia Buckner, River Hill, :12.10; 200: Buckner, :25.63; 400: Katelyn Herberholz, Reservoir, 1:01; 100 hurdles: Tahlea Murray, Howard, :16.75; 300 hurdles: Jannah Hall, Reservoir, :51.75; 800: Lillian Baumann, Reservoir, 2:37; 1,600: Hayley Long, Howard, 5:19; 3,200: Hannah Schwab, Howard, 11:29; 4x100: Reservoir (Sophie Davidson, Mecca Jackson, Breyonna Young, Jamie Adams), :50.04; 4x200: Howard (Waverly Wheeler, Enya Manzanera, Naya Solanki, Sheena Haroon), 1:58; 4x400: Marriotts Ridge (Katie Boyle, Hana Larkins, Anna Hendrickson, Julia Wade), 4:32; 4x800: Marriotts Ridge (Emily Hsu, Sarah Hill, Ashna Nayak, Elain Park), 11:40; Discus: Liv Ragonese, Centennial, 90-5; Shot put: Ragonese, 34-6; High jump: Ruth Smith, Howard, 4-10; Long jump: Murray, 15-7; Triple jump: Murray, 36-7.