For two innings at Wilde Lake on Tuesday afternoon, the Mt. Hebron baseball team looked beatable. But then in the third, the Vikings remembered that they were the defending county champions.
Jalen Bowen's towering grand slam over the fence in left center field punctuated the Mt. Hebron offensive breakthrough on the way to an 18-4 win.
"I wanted the kids to have good at-bats and as the game progressed on they got a little more comfortable. Jalen's at-bat broke the game open," said coach Brian Culley, who led the Vikings to the 3A state finals last year. "I was proud of him because it was a good at-bat. He got down early in the count but he worked the full count and put a good swing on it. That thing just kept going and going."
The Vikings ultimately hammered out 16 hits in the abbreviated contest, including RBI doubles by second baseman Liam Hall and catcher Kevin Broache (2-3, 2 SB, 2 RBI). Leadoff man Daniel Brouse reached base in all four of his plate appearances the hard way, by getting hit by a pitch, and he scored three runs and stole two bases. Soft-handed junior shorstop Mikaili Robertson, senior third baseman Jack Montgomery and senior right fielder Michael Carbonetti chipped in two base hits each.
In addition to his grand slam, Bowen — the No. 8 hitter who played primarily as a pinch runner for the Vikings last year — also laced a pair of singles through the left side of the infield, giving him an outstanding three-hit, three-run, five-RBI 2016 debut.
"He's a kid who runs really well," Culley said. "He gets on base for us and sometimes he can turn that into a double with his speed."
Junior Ryan Coakley, one of the top pitchers on the Mt. Hebron JV last year, got the start on the mound and looked sharp. He struck out seven in only three innings, and allowed only two hits, both singles by Wilde Lake sophomore leadoff hitter Aidan McGonigal, who scored on a sac fly by senior Jared Mouton in the first.
After that, the Wildecats did not score again until the bottom of the fifth and final inning, when Bryson Martin, Zach Johnson and Michael Arsenault all reached base by walk or hit-by-pitch, and Mouton hit a two-out, two-run single up the middle.
"In those first two innings they played well defensively, they hit, good base running. There were a lot of positives," said Wilde Lake coach Kareem Penn. "We're really young. All of my pitchers are juniors or sophomores, so we're just looking for them to get some experience against varsity hitting and our hitters to get experience against varsity pitching."
Glen Burnie 4, Centennial 3
Meade 12, Oakland Mills 9
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Annapolis Area Christian 3, Glenelg Country 2 (MIAA B)
Despite two hits each from Tim Oh (2B, RBI) and Jack Adamson, the Dragons lost their first conference game of 2016 to visiting Annapolis Area Christian. Senior Peyton Hudlow pitched two perfect innings of relief with four strikeouts to earn the win for AACS.
Atholton at Frederick (at McCurdy Field)
Glenelg at Liberty
Northeast at Howard
South Carroll at Marriotts Ridge
Marriotts Ridge, 1-0
Mt. Hebron, 1-0
River Hill, 1-0
Long Reach, 0-1
Oakland Mills, 0-1
Wilde Lake, 0-1
Glenelg Country, 2-1 (MIAA B)
Chapelgate, 0-0 (MIAA C)