The sun has been shining a little brighter on the Oakland Mills High School baseball diamond in recent weeks. Entering the 2016 season in the midst of a 40-game losing streak, a dark cloud of futility surrounded a program that had won 17 games and competed for a regional championship berth as recently as 2013. But after consecutive wins over Centennial last Wednesday and Wilde Lake on Monday afternoon, the Scorpions appear to have their sting back.
"I think it's just going to keep getting better," said senior Tim Brumbaugh, who pitched a one-hit shutout in the 12-0 win in five innings over visiting Wilde Lake on Monday. "At the beginning of the season we were a little bit shaken. We didn't really know how to win games because we never really won games in the past, so we're getting more and more of a taste for it every game. Every game I have seen my teammates improve."
After allowing a leadoff single to center field by Jared Mouton on Monday, Brumbaugh went on a tear, getting a double play ball to erase the baserunner, then retiring 13 of the next 15 batters with six strikeouts, including 10 consecutive outs to end the game. Brumbaugh allowed only two walks, both with two outs in the second, and only one ball out of the infield after the first inning: a pop out to center by Mouton.
"This has been four years in the making," Brumbaugh said of his team's recent success. "Freshman year was a long time ago and I'm really happy that we're coming together now in the year that matters most for me."
Although Oakland Mills lost its first three games of 2016 to drive the losing streak to 43, it was evident that this year's team was different from the start.
"We put in a lot of work during the offseason. We took two seasons where we hadn't won any games and really just didn't give up," coach Matt Sillers said. "Especially the younger kids like Tim and (senior catcher) Andrew (Atkins) didn't give up. They were still there every single day, and it's paying off ... It's exciting being on the opposite end of some of these games. It's all the players. They're putting in the work and they're starting to believe in themselves."
The change in fortune started for Oakland Mills with a spring break tournament win over Franklin, ending the losing skid at 43. They lost four more games after that, but the curse was broken. Last Wednesday, the Scorpions turned heads around the county when they knocked off Centennial — which had won three games in a row, including a win over first place Glenelg — by a score of 12-4.
"Every game we talk about our mentality, because we don't lose to teams, we lose to ourselves, Brumbaugh said. "Whenever we go down we get down on ourselves and then we start playing worse baseball. The Centennial game, we got down and we came back."
As the weather has gotten warmer, the Scorpions' bats have also come out of hibernation. After scoring only 60 runs in all of 2015, Oakland Mills has already scored 56 runs less than one month into the 2016 campaign.
"We do a lot of hitting stuff in practice: hitting off tees, a bunch of different stuff to focus on hitting," Sillers said. "Our biggest hitter this year has been (junior center fielder) Chris Clyde. He's hitting the ball hard and he's focused. His at-bats are so much better this year than they were last year. You can see how much work he puts in. He's got a batting cage in his backyard and you can hear him hitting every single day. That's the kind of work we need to put in to get better, and I love to see that."
Clyde drove in three runs on three doubles in the win over Centennial, while Atkins — who has been a team leader since the beginning of last season — drove in two runs to tie the game in the sixth.
On Monday against Wilde Lake, the Scorpions prevented any drama by scoring all of their runs early. The home team hung six runs on the board in each of the first two frames, sending 23 batters to the plate, collecting 11 hits, and taking advantage of five Wilde Lake errors. In the first two innings alone, every spot in the line-up had either a base hit or reached base on an error.
Brumbaugh, the No. 9 hitter, drove in three runs on two hits in those two innings, and sophomore Eric Barros also singled twice. Clyde, Jake Lawrence and Cameron Nikiel all drove in runs on base hits, and freshman Ben Looper — who was also critical on the mound in the wins over Franklin and Centennial — launched a solo home run over the left center field fence. Looper and his twin brother Ryan have been a huge part of the Oakland Mills resurgence.
"They came in and they have made pretty much every play that has come to them and hit the ball," Brumbaugh said. "As freshmen they're already two of the best ballplayers on the team and it's exciting to see how they're going to turn out four years from now."
Wilde Lake reliever Jackson Shaffer did an admirable job in long relief, pitching three scoreless innings of two-hit ball.
The Scorpions will next visit second place Howard on Wednesday.
"It's a tough county, and we know that. But we have some younger talent and we're just going to continue to work hard everyday," Sillers said. "Getting to see the kids win some games means more to me than anything."
WL (0-8) 000 00 - 0 1 6
OM (2-6) 660 0x - 12 11 0
Brumbaugh and Atkins. Martin, Shaffer and Baleno.
HR: OM — B. Looper.
Reservoir coach Adam Leader earned his 200th career victory in dramatic fashion on Friday, with a 1-0 win over first place Howard in extra innings. Howard's JR Faulkner (4 hits) and Reservoir's Max Goron (5 hits) each pitched seven scoreless innings to send the game to extras, tied 0-0.
Sophomore Cameron Hyder came on in relief to pitch a clean top of the eighth, then Eric Niederhauser hit a two-out double in the bottom of the eighth and scored on a walk-off single to right field by Arush Gupta.
"(It's a) great way to celebrate my 200th win," said Leader, who is in his 14th season and led the Gators to the 2014 state championship.
With solid wins over Atholton on Friday and defending county champion Mt. Hebron on Monday, Glenelg became the first team to win seven games and claimed pole position in the race to the 2016 county championship.
Brian Olive pitched a complete game, and Hunter Forsyth hit a two-out, three-run double in the 4-1 win over Mt. Hebron on Monday. Howard and River Hill sit one game behind Glenelg (7-1) at 6-2 heading into Wednesday's games.
Atholton 7, Long Reach 4
Sophomore Justin Reese and junior Ethan Lee combined on a three-hitter, allowing only one earned run. Camden Gilreath led the offensive effort for the Raiders, driving in two runs on a single and a double, and scoring three times.
Glenelg 4, Mt. Hebron 1
Hammond 4, Reservoir 1
Howard 2, Centennial 1
Casey Crawford won a pitcher's duel against Connor Atkins, striking out 12 without allowing an earned run in the complete game effort.
River Hill 7, Marriotts Ridge 0
Kieran Garner delivered a dominant performance in the complete game shutout, striking out 12 and allowing only three hits. Garner also led the offense, driving in three runs on three hits.
Sts. Peter and Paul 10, Chapelgate 8 (MIAA C)
The Yellowjackets scored five runs in the seventh, powered by a Dillon Story double, to make things exciting. Story also caught a baserunner attempting to steal second.
Centennial 16, Wilde Lake 1
Jake Vanko and Joey Sopchick combined to pitch five innings without an earned run to earn the win for the Eagles.
Glenelg 16, Atholton 6
Mt. Hebron 2, Marriotts Ridge 1
Michael Carbonetti's two-out RBI single to right field was the difference maker in the Vikings' win over the Mustangs on Friday. Liam Hall scored the game winning run after drawing a two-out walk on full count and advancing to second on a ball in the dirt.
Mt. Hebron's Jack Schroeder and Marriotts Ridge's Gunnar Barnard were oustanding on the mound, each pitching into the eighth. Barnard also scored the Mustangs' only run, when he tripled to deep center field and scored off an error on the relay throw back to the infield in the sixth.
Vikings' center fielder Jalen Bowen made an outstanding running catch in the top of the eighth to rob Barnard of extra bases and keep the go-ahead run off the board.
Reservoir 1, Howard 0
River Hill 7, Long Reach 3
Luke Parker and Jake Parker had six hits each to lead the Hawks to victory.
Beth Tfiloh 13, Chapelgate 8 (MIAA C, April 14)
River Hill, 6-2
Mt. Hebron, 5-3
Marriotts Ridge, 4-4
Long Reach, 3-5
Oakland Mills, 2-6
Wilde Lake, 0-8
Glenelg Country, 3-3 (MIAA B)
Chapelgate, 4-3 (MIAA C)
Long Reach at Glenelg
Marriotts Ridge at Atholton
Mt. Hebron at River Hill
Oakland Mills at Howard
Reservoir at Centennial
Wilde Lake at Hammond
Severn at Glenelg Country (MIAA B, April 19)