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Howard County Times
Howard County Sports

Mt. Hebron baseball holds off Reservoir to survive and advance

Ellicott City — It had been almost a month since Mt. Hebron junior Jack Schroeder took the mound as starting pitcher. But when the ace righty led his Vikings into battle against visiting Reservoir on Monday afternoon, there was no time to shake off the rust and ease back into form.

Schroeder struck out seven and walked only one batter in a complete game, two-hit victory over the Gators in a 3A East Sectional semifinal game.

"This is my first start since April 20 (a 4-3 loss to county champion River Hill), so I was just trying to work on my stuff," said Schroeder, who missed several starts due to rainouts and unfavorable matchups. "I didn't have all my pitches. Later on, my slider started to die on me and I couldn't really control it, but luckily I was able to pitch to contact more toward the end."

While Mt. Hebron, and the rest of the league, have been having trouble getting on the field during the last several weeks, Reservoir had the opposite problem on Saturday. The Gators endured a 19-inning, 4+ hour win over Centennial in the opening round of the playoffs. Twice, Reservoir was down to its final strike.

"It was a long, tiring game. But the kids never acted like they were tired," Reservoir coach Adam Leader said. "We were a team that battled and found ways to win this year. Especially in games like today. They battled today like we battled all year."

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The Gators had to use their top three pitchers on Saturday — Max Goron, Eric Jennings and Eric Niederhauser — and each pitcher essentially pitched a full game, leaving the rotation depleted. The next man up, junior Patrick Alexander, was not exactly 100 percent himself, having caught all 19 innings on Saturday.

Leader said that he consulted his backstop before Monday's game, and Alexander told his coach that he was whole heartedly up to the task, even after wearing catcher's gear for 19 innings just two days earlier.

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"He's that type of guy," Leader said of Alexander.

Given the circumstances, Alexander's performance was nothing short of spectacular. He pitched all six innings for the Gators, allowing just the two unearned runs on five hits and two walks, with two strikeouts.

"Holy cow. The effort from (Alexander), who caught 19 innings the other day, that's tremendous and it just shows the caliber of that program," Mt. Hebron coach Brian Culley said. "They were playing really well and we were fortunate to come out on top."

From the outset, the matchup seemed to favor the Vikings, who edged Reservoir in the regional championship last year en route to the state finals.

Mt. Hebron scored in the first inning, when left fielder Danny Brouse hit a two-out single, then crossed home plate on a pair of infield errors. In the second, No. 9 hitter Jalen Bowen and Mark Lettieri hit back-to-back two out singles, but Alexander stayed out of trouble with a pop out to short.

An outstanding diving catch by Kyle Fehr in right field ended the third inning, but Mt. Hebron added an insurance run in the fourth when Joe Herlihy led off with a single, circled the bases on a wild pitch and a Kevin Broache bunt, and scored on an RBI groundout by Lettieri.

"The wind was blowing in hard here and when it does it's hard to put up runs, so we knew as soon as we got here and the wind was howling that it was probably going to be a close game," Culley said. "We found enough ways to get a couple of runs and Jack was just outstanding and was able to make it stand up."

Schroeder retired the first 10 Reservoir batters he faced in order before Gators shortstop Kyle Chu broke through in the fourth when he reached on an infield error and stole second base. An inning later, Reservoir made it a one-run game when third baseman Arush Gupta reached on an infield error and eventually scored on a sac fly to deep center field by catcher Todd Del Tufo after a base hit by Sam Gigioli and a sac bunt by Jennings.

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Del Tufo's sac fly was almost a game changing double, but Bowen ran straight back on the line drive and caught it above his head as the wind softened its momentum to keep the tying run at second.

The Gators defense also stepped up in the later innings, as Chu, second baseman Trevor Romaine, and Niederhauser supported Alexander with big double plays in the fifth and sixth to keep it a one-run game.

Schroeder retired the first two batters of the seventh, giving him eight consecutive batters retired since Gigioli's base hit in the fifth, but just like the Gators showed on Saturday, they would not go down without a fight.

After Gigioli drew a four-pitch walk, Jennings hit a low bouncing grounder up the middle that slipped past Schroeder and then ricocheted off second base, preventing the Vikings from making a play.

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"When that baseball was hit off of second base for the last out of the game we thought, 'Are we jinxed?'," Culley said.

But on the very next play, Del Tufo hit a sharp grounder almost to the same spot. This time, Mt. Hebron's sure-handed shortstop Mikaili Robertson made the play to get the force out at second and send the Vikings to a Sectional final at county champion River Hill on Wednesday.

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"We're trying to build on some of the experience we had last year (during the state finals run) and this game is going to do nothing but help," Culley said. "That's the playoffs. It's do or die. The kids feel it. There's excitement in the air, and we're just excited to still be playing baseball."

Re (12-5) 000 010 0 - 1 2 3
MH (11-5) 100 100 x - 2 5 2

Alexander and Del Tufo. Schroeder and Broache.

Around the League

Howard 22, Digital Harbor 1 (4A)

Austin Aguilera tossed three no-hit, scoreless innings to earn the victory, while Jayden Cowan and Casey Crawford (HR) combined for seven hits, three doubles and eight RBIs. The Lions will now travel to top-seeded Sherwood on Wednesday.

River Hill 2, Glenelg 0 (3A)

The Hawks avenged a loss to the Gladiators from a week ago, and will now host Mt. Hebron on Wednesday.

Chesapeake AA 11, Atholton 1 (3A)

After a dominant, 11-strikeout performance in a 1-0 win over Hammond by Blake James on Saturday, the Raiders' postseason came to an end at top-seeded Chesapeake. Seniors Brian Cook and Chase Thibeault had the only two hits for Atholton against Chesapeake's Joe Seidler, and James drove in the only run.

Marriotts Ridge 3, Winters Mill 0 (2A)

The Mustangs shut down the Falcons, and will now travel to Francis Scott Key with a berth in the regional championship on the line.

Pallotti 6, Glenelg Country 1 (MIAA B)

Chapelgate 14, Beth Tfiloh 6 (MIAA C)

Luke Heming earned a complete game win for the Yellowjackets, and Dillon Story and Josh Butler (double) each had three hits. Chapelgate advances to play Concordia in the conference semifinals on Tuesday.

Wednesday, May 18 schedule

Howard at Sherwood (4A)

Mt. Hebron at River Hill (3A)

Marriotts Ridge at Francis Scott Key (2A)

Chapelgate at Concordia (MIAA C, Tuesday)


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