Marriottsville — Coming into Monday afternoon's game against visiting Reservoir, Marriotts Ridge junior Jake Dinoto had no idea what it felt like to play in the ninth inning. But after pitching a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the ninth, then hitting a walk-off base hit in the bottom of the inning, Dinoto got to experience the rare scenario in style.
"I don't think I've ever played a full nine-inning game," said Dinoto, who typically plays a standard seven inning game as a high school baseball player. "This will definitely give us a lot of confidence."
Featuring strong pitching, excellent defense, and a lack of timely hitting from both teams, Monday night's game was destined for extra innings.
Marriotts Ridge's Tyler Bohan (8 IP, 5 H, 4 K, 1 BB, 1 R) and Reservoir's Eric Jennings (5 IP, 6 H, 1 K, 3 BB, 1 R) dueled to a scoreless tie after three innings of play, with Bohan allowing just one Gator to reach base: Arush Gupta on a second inning two-out single.
Marriotts Ridge advanced runners to second base in each of the first three innings — including doubles by Chris Morath (2-for-3) and Josh Olsufka — but it was Reservoir that struck first to break the tie.
In the top of the fourth, shortstop Kyle Chu led off with a single up the third baseline, then advanced to third on two pitches in the dirt before scoring on a perfectly executed squeeze bunt by Eric Niederhauser.
Marriotts Ridge eventually tied the game in the fifth, but the Mustangs left several runs on the table. After a Mark Augustino leadoff walk followed by a Joey Fellona double to deep right field, Reservoir intentionally walked the bases loaded for Mustangs slugger Gunnar Barnard. He hit a soft line drive to shallow center field, but Reservoir outfielders Kyle Fehr and Cameron Hyder collided attempting to make the catch, and dropped the ball.
With one run in and still no outs, Marriotts Ridge looked to be on the verge of breaking the game open. However, the Gators got two outs on the next play when the runner on third left early on a sac fly, then got out of the inning with another fly out to center.
Hyder, a sophomore lefty, came on in relief of Jennings, who is also a sophomore, and retired nine consecutive batters to keep Reservoir in the game into extra innings, while Bohan continued to cruise for the Mustangs.
"The splitter was working really well. I got good push off of the mound. My fastball was running inside," Bohan said. "My arm felt great the whole game and my endurance was good. Overall the infield played great which really helped me out."
Reservoir finally appeared to break through against Bohan in the top of the eighth, when Hyder hit a one-out single and stole second base, then came around third and headed home on a base hit to the outfield by Chu. Marriotts Ridge executed a nice relay from Morath in right field to Dinoto at first base and home to Fellona at the plate, and Hyder was called out on the tag despite beating the throw home.
"We had a bunch of opportunities," Reservoir coach Adam Leader said. "Our defense played great. We just need to tighten up on offense. It will come."
In the bottom of the ninth, Marriotts Ridge second baseman Justin Lake took a pitch off the arm to get on base, then advanced into scoring position on a textbook sacrifice bunt by Colin Kratochwill. That set the stage for Dinoto to step to the plate and drive the first pitch he saw over the center fielder's head, ending the game.
"I struggled earlier in the year but now I'm starting to get (hitting) down," Dinoto said. "The first pitch down the middle, I just ripped it ... that was a long time coming this season."
The win ended a two-game slide for the Mustangs (3-2 league, 6-2 overall), who have scored only four runs in their last three games.
"It's tough to win ball games like that. This was much needed," Marriotts Ridge coach Paul Eckert said. "Reservoir was very impressive today, as young of a team as they have. They gave us all we could handle and they're only going to get better in the second half."
Reservoir dropped to 2-3 in the league standings with the loss.
Re (2-3) 000 100 000 - 1 5 0
MR (3-2) 000 010 001 - 2 7 1
Bohan, Dinoto (9) and Fellona. Jennings, Hyder (6) and Del Tufo.
2B: MR — Morath, Olsufka, Fellona.
After Monday's games, four teams are now tied atop the county standings with 4-1 records: Atholton, Glenelg, Howard and River Hill.
Centennial has now won three games in a row — beating Atholton, Glenelg and Marriotts Ridge — after winning only four conference games in 2015. Glenelg has also been impressive of late, handing Howard it's first conference loss on Monday. The Gladiators also defeated the Lions in a spring break tournament.
River Hill is scheduled to host Glenelg on Wednesday in a battle of first place teams.
Centennial 12, Atholton 2
The Eagles busted out with 10 runs in the bottom of the first and never looked back on the way to their third straight win. Connor Atkins struck out six and allowed only four hits and two walks in five innings to earn the victory.
Glenelg 5, Howard 4
The Gladiators scored twice in the top of the seventh to take the lead, then prevented a Lions' rally in the bottom of the seventh. Cole Yungmann earned the win on the mound, while John McAuliffe drove in the winning run.
Long Reach 11, Wilde Lake 5
Trailing 4-2 after four innings, the Lightning scored nine runs in the fifth and sixth innings to take control of the game. John Shupe and Jeremy Huffman paced the Lightning offense with three hits each.
Mt. Hebron 18, Oakland Mills 4
River Hill 5, Hammond 3
The Hawks outlasted the Golden Bears in nine innings, scoring the winning run on a fielding error.
Glenelg Country 18, Park 3 (MIAA B)
Atholton 29, Wilde Lake 0
Jack Lawrence's grand slam highlighted the Raiders' 23 hits, and Brian Cook had a four-hit day.
Centennial 4, Glenelg 3
Matt Steen and Glenn Stratton delivered a strong performance on the mound to power the Eagles to a close win.
Howard 5, Marriotts Ridge 1
JR Faulkner earned the win by pitching six innings, striking out six and allowing only three hits for one unearned run. Casey Crawford was 3-for-3 with a double, and Reid Walsh (2), Jayden Cowan (2) and Sam Jacobson drove in the runs.
Long Reach 4, Hammond 3
Mark Wicklein struck out seven in a complete game effort to lead the Lightning to victory.
Reservoir 9, Mt. Hebron 3 (extra innings)
River Hill 13, Oakland Mills 3
Jake Howland and Jake Parker collected three hits each, and the Hawks scored five runs in the bottom of the first to cruise to the win.
Chapelgate 3, Gerstell 2 (MIAA C)
Chris Niccolini pitched the complete game victory in a contest that lacked offense, as the Yellowjackets scratched out three runs on only one hit, by Changmin Lee.
River Hill, 4-1
Long Reach, 3-2
Marriotts Ridge, 3-2
Mt. Hebron, 3-2
Wilde Lake, 0-5
Oakland Mills, 0-6
Glenelg Country, 3-3 (MIAA B)
Chapelgate, 3-1 (MIAA C)
Howard County Times: Top stories
Glenelg at River Hill
Hammond at Howard
Marriotts Ridge at Long Reach
Mt. Hebron at Atholton
Oakland Mills at Centennial
Wilde Lake at Reservoir
Mount Carmel at Glenelg Country (MIAA B)