Clarksville, MD — The Howard baseball team hasn't slowed down since last year's 15-win season.
After Thursday afternoon's 4-0 shutout at River Hill, the Lions are 3-0 with wins over Long Reach, Northeast and Rver Hill. In that span they have scored 22 runs and allowed only one, which was unearned.
"It all starts and ends with pitching," said Lions coach Nick Hoffner. "All the guys that threw did a heck of a job out there on the mound, varying their pitches, throwing strikes, working ahead in the count and working down in the zone ... it's nice to see it out here in a game."
Facing off against River Hill flamethrower Kieran Garner (4 IP, 8 K), Howard's Austin Aguilera pitched four scoreless innings on Thursday afternoon, striking out four and allowing only two hits. Junior Tim Jakubek took care of the final three shutout innings, allowing only one hit and one walk.
"Austin and Timmy, when they needed to get that out, they bared down, they focused, and they got it done," Hoffner said.
The Lions (3-0) supported their pitchers with a big third inning, when they batted around with five hits, two walks and a hit batter for four runs, which turned out to be the only runs in the game.
"(Garner) has a very good fastball and a very good breaking ball, too. I thought our hitters had a great approach at the plate," Hoffner said. "We hit the fastball and the breaking ball, and fouled off some tough pitches ... we don't have an easy out in our lineup."
Lions leadoff man KJ Murray was 2-for-3 with a walk, a run and a stolen base, and his only out came on a line drive to right field.
In the third inning, Murray scored on an opposite field two-run single by senior Casey Crawford, followed by back-to-back RBI singles by Sam Jacobson and Reid Walsh.
"We just kept getting the bat on the ball, tough at bats finally led to hits and runs scored," said Murray, who has committed to play for Stevenson University next year. "I'm feeling pretty good about this year ... I think we can be even better this season."
Murray also made the defensive play of the game, racing back toward the center field fence to rob Derek Gold of an extra base hit with an over the shoulder catch in the fifth inning.
"Off the bat I thought it was going much further, but it hung up in the air so I was able to get to the spot and track it down," he said.
Several newcomers to the Lions lineup made strong contributions, as junior shortstop Cameron Robinson connected on a pair of singles, junior left fielder Jayden Cowan laced a double to left center field for the only extra base hit of the game, and sophomore right fielder Craig Wiley went 2-for-3 in the No. 9 spot.
"This is probably the best defensive outfield I've had in six years at Howard," Hoffner said. "If it goes up in the air those guys are going to track it down."
River Hill played strong defensively, as catcher Jake Parker caught two baserunners stealing, and junior shortstop Ian Sterling led the offense with a pair of base hits in the No. 9 spot.
Ho (2-0) 004 000 0 - 0 10 0
RH (1-1) 000 000 0 - 0 3 0
Atholton 10, Oakland Mills 0
Junior Ryan Thomas threw a two-hit shut out, and sophomore Kevin Silverstein clubbed a two-run home run to lead the Raiders to a 10-0 shut out.
Glenelg 21, Hammond 11
The Gladiators erupted for 17 runs in the bottom of the first inning, and Sean Kinloch earned the win.
Marriotts Ridge 10, Wilde Lake 0
Mt. Hebron 4, Centennial 0
Reservoir 6, Long Reach 4
Severn 7, Glenelg Country 6
Howard 7, Northeast 0
Senior Casey Crawford pitched the shut out and also went 2-for-3 at the plate with 2 RBIs. Sam Jacobson also drove in two runs on two hits. The win avenged a loss from March of 2015.
Liberty 5, Glenelg 4
Glenelg reliever Connor McIntyre pitched three shutout innings, allowing only three hits and two walks, but it wasn't enough as the Gladiators fell one run short. Hunter Forsyth and Jake Wright (2 H, RBI) both doubled, and John McAuliffe hit a two-run single in the sixth to lead the Gladiator offense.
Marriotts Ridge 4, South Carroll 2
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Atholton at Linganore and North Hagerstown
Century and Chesapeake at Hammond
Century and Chesapeake at Mt. Hebron
Long Reach at Glen Burnie
Mamaroneck at Centennial
Wilde Lake at Glen Burnie
Marriotts Ridge, 2-0
Mt. Hebron, 2-0
River Hill, 1-1
Long Reach, 0-2
Oakland Mills, 0-2
Wilde Lake, 0-2
Glenelg Country, 2-2 (MIAA B)
Chapelgate, 0-0 (MIAA C)