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Howard County Times
Howard County Sports

River Hill baseball overcomes Howard in epic battle for first place

It took two days and 13 innings, but River Hill has finally emerged on top of the Howard County baseball standings after an epic battle with Howard for first place.

"That was just a grind," said River Hill coach Wes McCoy, whose team took sole possession of first place with four games remaining with the 2-0 win. "It was just one of those games where eventually someone was going to find a way, and lucky for us it was us today ... both teams just played really good baseball."

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The two teams entered the game, which began on Friday afternoon at 4:15 and ended on Saturday afternoon at 1:20, with matching 10-2 conference records. The contest featured seven different pitchers, 370 pitches and 106 at-bats. But one thing that the game did not see until the top of the 13th inning was a runner crossing the plate.

The two starting pitchers, Howard's JR Faulkner (6 IP, 94 P, 1 BB, 1 HBP, 5 K, 6 H) and River Hill lefty Derek Gold (8 IP, 98 P, 1 BB, 1 K, 6 H), dueled for most of Friday's game before turning the ball over to lefty Reid Walsh (3 IP, 1 H) and Josh Mann (4 IP, 1 H), respectively. Each catcher, Howard's Eric Greenbaum and River Hill's Luke Parker, caught two runners attempting to steal second, and neither team was able to successfully steal a base.

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River Hill's best early scoring chance came in the second, when Jake Howland (3 H) singled and advanced to third on a Kieran Garner single up the first base line with no outs. But Faulkner erased that threat wth a pop out to second base, a strikeout and a nicely played ground ball by third baseman Zach Phillips.

The Lions got a runner to third in the fourth inning, when Casey Crawford hit a one-out single and took third on a base hit by Walsh, but the Hawks turned one of their two inning-ending double plays to get out of that jam.

In the top of the seventh, River Hill loaded the bases with only one out after a leadoff walk by Danny Selby, an Ian Sterling single, and a Jake Parker hit-by-pitch. Luke Parker then hit a tough groundball to short that looked like it would drive in a run, but Crawford fielded it cleanly on a low bounce and fired home to cut off the run.

"That was an amazing play. I thought that was going to be the game yesterday," McCoy said. "That was a huge momentum killer."

As the light waned, Howard turned the ball over to Connor Williams (3 IP, 1 H), and neither team was able to get a runner past second base after the seventh inning. After more than three hours of baseball, the game was suspended for the evening due to insufficient light.

Then on Saturday afternoon, the Hawks finally broke through in the top of the 13th when the baseball finally started rolling in their favor.

Howland led off against reliever Tim Jakubek by reaching on an infield error, then took second on a sacrifice by Garner. Tucker Finkelston was then intentionally walked to set up the force play, but Selby punched a single up the middle to load the bases with only one out.

"We'd been putting the ball in play, but not a lot was getting through. A lot of that is a testament to the defense. Both defenses were showing a lot of range," McCoy said. "But we caught a break with an error. Unfortunately, that's how a lot of these games end. They don't end with a bang ... they end with pressure being applied. It's high school baseball and eventually something is going to break."

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With the bases loaded, Mann dribbled a grounder back to the mound that allowed Howland to sprint home from third for what proved to be the game winning run, although Finkelston also scored one at-bat later on an infield error.

"I knew I just had to hit a groundball because the infield was in. I was hoping I could just get it through," said Mann, who also earned the win by virtue of his four innings of scoreless relief. "He threw me three curveballs which I was not expecting at all. The last one I just nubbed it out there five feet and luckily Howland is fast enough and he got home and I got the job done."

River Hill sent their ace, Garner, out to protect the two-run lead in the bottom of the 13th, but the drama wasn't over.

After getting ahead, 0-2, Garner missed on a curveball and plunked Eric Greenbaum to bring the tying run to the plate. Sam Jacobson then drew a four-pitch walk after a wild pitch advanced the runner on first, putting the tying run on base.

Crawford then hit a soft line drive to center field, but the runner on second got a bad read and was gunned down at third by Jake Parker after running back to tag up at second. After another wild pitch advanced the runners to second and third with one out, Garner composed himself and fired back-to-back strikeouts to end the game.

"That was a classic high school baseball game. You probably won't see a better one all year," Howard coach Nick Hoffner said. "Both teams were really trying hard to win the game and everyone knew how big of a game it was. But I told my guys that our season is not over ... my guys aren't going to quit. We're going to keep playing hard and keep grinding and I feel confident that we're going to play good baseball the rest of the way."

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River Hill closes out the season against Reservoir on May 2, at Oakland Mills on May 4, against Hammond on May 6 and at Glenelg on May 9. Howard will be at Mt. Hebron on May 2, home against Marriotts Ridge on May 4, at Glenelg on May 6 and at Hammond on May 9.

With four losses each, Reservoir, Glenelg and defending county champion Mt. Hebron are still in contention as well.

"I think it's going to be incredibly exciting," McCoy said. "You've got five teams all within striking distance and we're all going to play each other. The county has been really tough and it's been a fun season."

RH (11-2) 000 000 000 000 2 - 2 9 1

Ho (10-3) 000 000 000 000 0 - 0 7 3

Faulkner, Walsh (7), Williams (10), Jakubek (13) and Greenbaum. Gold, Mann (9), Garner (13) and L. Parker.

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2B: Ho — Greenbaum, Cowan.

Around the League

Marriotts Ridge 12, Wilde Lake 0

The Mustangs pitching staff tossed a combined no-hitter.

Friday, April 29 results

Atholton 4, Oakland Mills 3

The Raiders rallied for two runs in the top of the seventh after the Scorpions had taken a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth. Sophomore Connor McManus led the Atholton bats with a single, triple and two RBIs, including the game-winner. Atholton's Ethan Lee pitched into the sixth inning without allowing an earned run.

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Reservoir 2, Long Reach 1

Pallotti 6, Glenelg Country 2 (MIAA B)

Glenelg Country's Brendan Grady was 2-for-3, but a three-run home run by Pallotti's Devin Brogden in the bottom of the third inning swung the momentum in the Panthers' favor.

Wednesday, April 27 results

Glenelg 3, Oakland Mills 2

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Hammond 3, Marriotts Ridge 1

Howard 7, Long Reach 1

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Mt. Hebron 12, Wilde Lake 2

Reservoir 6, Atholton 5

River Hill 5, Centennial 4

Chapelgate 8, St. John's 5 (MIAA C)

Boys Latin 8, Glenelg Country 2 (MIAA B, Tuesday, April 26)

League Standings (as of April 30)

River Hill, 11-2

Howard, 10-3

Reservoir, 9-4

Glenelg, 8-4

Mt. Hebron, 8-4

Marriotts Ridge, 8-5

Atholton, 6-7

Hammond, 5-7

Long Reach, 5-8

Centennial, 4-8

Oakland Mills, 2-11

Wilde Lake, 0-13

Glenelg Country, 6-5 (MIAA B)

Chapelgate, 6-4 (MIAA C)

Monday, May 2 schedule

Centennial at Marriotts Ridge

Hammond at Atholton

Howard at Mt. Hebron

Oakland Mills at Long Reach

Reservoir at River Hill

Wilde Lake at Glenelg

Chapelgate at Gerstell (MIAA C)


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