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Howard County Sports

Reservoir baseball uses six-run second inning to defeat Northern, 9-2, advance to Class 3A state semifinal

After Travis Thompson pitched Reservoir baseball out of a jam in the top of the second inning, the Gators came to bat with the game still scoreless in the bottom half.

Nine batters later, Reservoir exploded for six runs, catalyzed by the top of the lineup. Leadoff hitter Nate Del Tufo and No. 2 batter Quinn Dean laced back-to-back RBI singles, and Ben Davis promptly followed with a three-run home run to deep right field.

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With a six-run advantage, the fourth-seeded Gators continued to build momentum, defeating fifth-seeded Northern, 9-2. The Gators advance to a Class 3A state semifinal Tuesday for the second time in program history and the first time since winning a state title in 2014.

“The work ethic they have, I felt like in all aspects today we did really well,” Reservoir coach Adam Leader said. “They’re just a hard-working group. I don’t need to do a whole lot to motivate them or get them fired up, they do it themselves.

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“We’ll say, ‘All right, let’s talk, [and they’ll say] ‘Coach, leave, we got this.’ It’s a team that is very tight. They really work as a family, they talk as a family. They’re just excited to be here. They love playing baseball, they love playing together and they just don’t want to stop. I think that motivates them and drives them.”

Throughout the afternoon, the top of the Gators’ lineup served as the tone-setters for the offense. Del Tufo, Dean, Davis and cleanup hitter Jordan Peguese totaled eight hits, three of which came off the bat of Davis. The veteran showcased his power with the home run, but also the ability to hit for contact by lacing two singles.

“We know it’s our job to get on base and get the rally going, so the bottom of the lineup can get some runs in,” Davis said. “We try to do that to the best of our ability and today we got it.”

With ample run support, Thompson gained confidence with each inning. After not pitching for a week and a half, he threw an efficient 6 2/3 innings, striking out five. He also showcased his ability to pitch out of challenging situations. In the fourth inning, after the first two hitters reached base, Thompson got a strikeout and then forced a 6-4-3 double play to close out the frame.

“I tend to get myself in a lot of those situations growing up, so I’ve built comfort with it,” Thompson said of pitching in tough spots. “I know we have one of the best defenses out there, so that always helps. Ben [Davis] is great behind the plate and he really keeps me focused. I think we just have great team chemistry and that’s the biggest thing.”

As Reservoir’s offense thrived, the defense also excelled. Davis caught a runner stealing in the second and also executed a snap throw to first for a pickoff in the fifth. Beyond Davis, the infield corps of Zack Gaynor, Dean, Del Tufo and Justin Gutierrez were sound defensively, recording several putouts.

“We’ve been starting to have great communication nowadays,” Dean said of the defensive success. “I think that’s contributed to our growth as an infield. As the season goes on, the plays get tougher, and you just start to work with them more.”

Building energy as the game progressed, the Gators tacked on three runs in the fifth. Reservoir made Northern pay for its defensive mistakes, as Peguese launched an RBI double to center.

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The Patriots managed to score two runs in the final inning, but the Gators’ advantage proved too large as Jack Lloyd came on for the final out. That pushed Reservoir one step closer to its state championship goal and sent its nine seniors out on a high note in their last home game.

“We talk everyday about how everyday right now is a gift and we’re not guaranteed anything,” Leader said. “We just talked about the seniors and this is their last game on this field and how special it is to have a game like this on this field. I’m overwhelmed, excited, proud for these guys and this program.”


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