Marriotts Ridge cleanup hitter Cole Brown has seen opposing teams intentionally walk reigning Howard County Player of the Year Josh Olsufka to pitch to him time and time again this season. And time and time again, Brown has made them pay.

Facing rival Mt. Hebron Tuesday afternoon, Brown once again proved that walking Olsufka intentionally is not the answer. Trailing 4-3 and down to their final out, Brown blooped a single to shallow center field that scored the tying and go-ahead runs in the top of the seventh, and the Mustangs (10-3 Howard County, 12-3 overall) held on in the bottom half of the inning to win, 5-4, and improve their winning streak to six games.

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“It’s not the first time they’ve walked Josh this season and it’s the same story,” said Brown, who finished 1-for-4 with a run and the two RBIs. “I’ve hit multiple RBIs when they’ve walked Josh. A lot of teams underestimate me and I come up when I need it.”

Howard baseball takes county lead, avenges loss to Mt. Hebron

The Howard Lions varsity baseball team beat the Mt. Hebron Vikings, 10-3, in Ellicott City on Monday, April 29, 2019.

Brown’s late-inning heroics came after the Vikings (10-3, 10-5) had some of their own. They broke a 3-3 tie with a run in the bottom of the sixth inning when, with two outs, Magnus Dunn singled, stole second and third and scored on a throwing error. However, in the bottom half of the seventh, Marriotts Ridge’s Cooper Stepke closed the door by retiring the final three batters in order to strand the tying run at second base.

Both starting pitchers gave their respective teams a chance to win. The Mustangs’ Tyler Vandenberge allowed eight hits, three runs and walked four and struck out three over five innings in his first start of the season. Mt. Hebron’s Jimmy Jaecksch was even better, pitching a complete game and allowing six hits, four walks, five runs — three earned — while punching out 10.

Mustangs coach Paul Eckert raved about his starting pitching following the game but also said there were many “teachable” moments, especially in their three-run fourth inning. A fielding error and an RBI double by Ira Snell, a single by Justin Woodbury and a two-run double by TJ Delmonte to leadoff the frame gave them a 3-1 lead but back-to-back base running gaffes cost them a chance at blowing the game open. It also let Jaecksch settle in, as he retired the next seven batters he faced, striking out five them.

“That inning was a teachable inning. It almost ran us out of the game,” Eckert said. “... I know what we’ll be working on Thursday.”

Mt. Hebron, which scored its first run in the second inning thanks to a bases-loaded walk to Tim Van Netta, methodically chipped away at the deficit. An RBI double by Van Netta in the fourth inning and a Tommy Fitzpatrick’s RBI sacrifice fly to center in the fifth tied the game, and the Vikings reclaimed the advantage when Dunn worked his magic on the bases in the sixth.

Long Reach baseball sets tone early in win over Hammond

Long Reach scores four times in top of first and never trails on way to 13-3 road victory over Hammond on Monday, April 22, 2019.

Two fielding errors in both of Marriotts Ridge’s crooked-number innings were ultimately the difference, however. What looked like a possible double-play ball to shortstop that could’ve ended the game in the seventh was bobbled, and even though Jaecksch punched out his 10th batter in the next at-bat for the second out, Olsufka’s intentional walk and Brown’s knock was enough to do them in.

Jaecksch also had a big day at the plate, going 3-for-4 with three singles, and Josh Barke went 2-for-4 with a stolen base.

It’s the second loss in as many days for the Vikings, who also missed an opportunity to jump back into a tie for first place with Howard falling to Centennial on Tuesday, and their fifth loss in their last eight games after starting the year 7-0.

“The message is to come out tomorrow and right the ship a little bit and feel really good heading towards the playoffs,” Mt. Hebron coach Brian Culley said. “A lot went into yesterday and today, playing Howard and your big rivals down the road today, so it’s been a draining kind of couple days in that regard. But we could’ve or should’ve — depending on who you talk to — won that game. We’re right there with the good teams. ... I want them to have a short memory and come back tomorrow ready to fire off against Centennial and out of A+ effort out there.”

Marriotts Ridge (10-3 county, 12-3 overall) — 5, Mt. Hebron (10-3, 10-5) — 4

........... 123 456 7 R-H-E

MR ... 000 300 2 5-6-1

MH ... 010 111 0 4-10-3

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