Hammond leadoff hitter Aidan Harris smoked a ball to the right-center field gap, giving the Golden Bears a one-run lead in the top of third. With a runner on third and no one out, the floodgates could’ve easily opened.
Glenelg starter Zach Lafountain kept them shut.
Lafountain responded with three straight outs to get out of the jam, a critical sequence as the Class 2A West Region II top-seed Gladiators responded with two runs courtesy of Logan Pusheck in the bottom half of the inning.
Glenelg added insurance runs in the fourth and five innings, defeating fourth-seeded Hammond, 4-1, advancing to Tuesday’s regional final.
“That’s Hammond’s best player on third base,” Glenelg coach Steve Tiffany said of Lafountain getting out of the jam. “They put up a two-spot, things are different. Zach’s a different breed. ... All year long, he’s been asking about this situation. When we talked about who was going to be our starter, there was no one different we wanted on the mound. He’s just a bulldog. He wants the ball. He competes and he keeps us in the game.”
After Todd Calhoun’s triple started the Gladiators’ rally. Ben Pearcy grounded into a fielder’s choice and ended up on second. Next up, Pusheck laced a base hit to center field, giving Glenelg its first lead of the day.
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“My boys did their job, they got on base,” Pusheck said. “That’s where I love the confidence they have in me to be the right man in that situation. Luckily, I came through for them. I give them the credit, they got on base for me to do my job.”
The Gladiators continued their timely hitting in the ensuing two innings. Nick Bilotto found a hole on the right side, extending Glenelg’s lead to 3-1 after four. Lafountain also continued to stymie the Golden Bears’ offense, quelling a brief rally in the fifth as Connor Walls was caught trying to steal third on a ball in the dirt. In the bottom of the inning, Alfonse Dello Russo laid down a suicide squeeze tacking on another run for Glenelg.
“Just the team supporting me,” Lafountain said of his success. “The team brought the bats together and we all came back together and kept our energy up.”
Trailing by three runs in the sixth, Hammond attempted to rally. With runners on first and second and two outs, Harris singled to shallow right. Golden Bears coach Casey Mediary held the lead runner at third, but Hammond’s runner on second was caught in a rundown and tagged out, halting the comeback.
“I mean, even the mistakes we made, we made out of an aggressive mentality, which is what we do” Mediary said. “I wouldn’t change it, but when those mistakes do happen, good teams capitalize. Glenelg’s a good team and I’m sure they’ll go pretty far. They saw what we could do and every time we gave them a tougher and tougher game. We didn’t let it slip away. Our pitching handled well, their pitching handled well with the bats. We’re always a late-inning team, almost did it again.”
Nick Duvall pitched the sixth, while Dello Russo worked a 1-2-3 seventh, capping off the Gladiators’ victory. Now, for the second consecutive season, Glenelg advances to a regional final, this time on their home field. The Gladiators host No. 3 Walkersville at 4 p.m. Tuesday. Walkersville beat No. 2 Poolesville, 10-0, on Saturday.
“Last year was that 14-inning crazy game and these guys have fought and earned the opportunity where someone’s got to come to our place and beat us,” Tiffany said. “I’m sure it’s going to be a very good baseball team, but I like our chances.”