Marriotts Ridge senior Dylan Anagnos talks after the Mustangs’ season-opening win on March 26. (Kyle Stackpole / BSMG)
HOWARD COUNTY, MD — Clinging to a 5-4 lead late in Monday’s game against Glenelg, Marriotts Ridge baseball turned to a pitcher who had yet to throw an inning at the varsity level.
And that will likely be the case for the Mustangs to start the 2018 campaign. They lost several seniors, many of whom were pitchers, and are without the services of preseason All-State left-hander Dylan Anagnos, who will play first base this season after suffering an elbow injury.
In fact, coach Paul Eckert said he would be surprised if anyone on the team has pitched double-digit varsity innings.
But in Monday’s season opening win, experience held little significance. Mustangs left-hander Ryan Lee entered the game in the fifth inning, and, with runners on second and third and no one out, escaped the jam unscathed. He then stranded another runner in scoring position in the sixth before closing out the 5-4 triumph with two strikeouts in the seventh frame.
“We had a big stop from one of our relievers, Ryan Lee,” Anagnos said. “[Second and third], no outs, and he got out of it with no runs. I feel like that really helped us.”
Lee’s scoreless relief appearance clinched the win for junior right-hander Josh Olsufka, who allowed four runs on just three hits while amassing eight strikeouts.
And through the first four innings, he was dominant. The only runs Glenelg scored over that stretch occurred in the first inning — when two hitters reached base on dropped third strikes, the former eventually coming around to score on a passed ball — and in the fourth frame, which began with a dropped fly ball in right field.
But in the fifth inning, Olsufka ran into some trouble. With Glenelg down, 5-2, second baseman Chris Reese began the sequence with his second of three singles on the afternoon and moved to second base after Olsufka drilled the next hitter. Hunter Koele then laid down a well-placed bunt, loading the bases.
Next to the plate was Tad Henley, who had one of the highest batting averages in the county last season. He delivered with a two-run double to bring the Gladiators within one.
Eckert liked what he saw from Olsufka on Monday, but at that point, he felt the need to make a pitching change. In the game’s biggest moment, the veteran coach turned to Lee.
“I expect them to perform when I put them out there,” said Eckert, who told both players the same phrase after the game. “Or else, I wouldn’t put them out there.”
Lee was up to the task. He induced two groudouts and fanned another batter, a problem that plagued Glenelg batters all afternoon. The Gladiators struck out 12 times as a team, a handful of those coming with runners in scoring position.
Despite his team’s lack of timely hitting, first-year coach Steve Tiffany was pleased with his players’ effort against the reigning county champion and 2A West region finalist.
“For us, it was a good measuring stick to see where we are,” Tiffany said. “We competed. It’s a good start. I hate to lose, and lose that way, but our guys competed, and we fought, and it was a good high school baseball game.”
The game was sloppy at times, Tiffany admitted, but added Marriotts Ridge made the necessary plays to come out with the win. Take the first inning, when Anagnos jumped on a first-pitch fastball and drilled a two-out, two-run, opposite-field double to help the Mustangs’ gain the advantage after falling behind early. Another RBI double from Agagnos brought home a third run in third inning. It also set up runners at second and third with less than two outs.
Junior Nick Dinoto subsequently failed to reach base, but he accomplished what Glenelg could not when faced with scoring opportunities. His grounder to first base resulted in an out but drove home the Mustangs’ fourth run of the game in their eventual season-opening victory.
“Baseball comes down to quality pitching — I think we got it — solid defense, which we had, and then timely hits,” Tiffany said. “Second and third and no outs down one, we just couldn’t get a timely hit and we couldn’t manufacture a run. And ultimately, that’s what came back and bit us.”