From the start of the season Centennial coach Ron Martin stressed that making the regional playoffs was his team's primary goal.
Yesterday at South Carroll the Eagles all but clinched a Class 3A, Region III berth by surviving a last-inning scare and beating the Cavaliers, 11-9.
South Carroll rallied for six runs on two hits in the bottom of the seventh. Brian Yanick's grand slam homer was the key hit. Brent Mertes finally relieved starter David Hudson and retired the final two batters.
It was a wonder that Martin hadn't removed Hudson sooner, as Hudson had thrown 106 pitches after six innings and then pitched to seven batters in the seventh, walking two and going to deep counts a few of the others.
I made the mistake of letting him (Hudson) talk me into leaving him out there,'" Martin said.
Through six innings, Hudson held South Carroll to six hits and three runs - only one of which was earned.
Centennial, a team that has ridden its pitching and defense to a 9-5 overall record and 9-3 league mark, played sloppily in the field, making four errors.
South Carroll scored those three runs in the second inning on singles by Greg Mihalko and Mike Paul, an error and a two-run triple by Tim Beck. Centennial center fielder Curtis Mitchell tried to make a shoestring catch on Beck's sinking liner and when he missed the ball rolled to the fence.
They were waiting on my fastball in that second inning, so I started throwing more curves and that worked,'" Hudson said.
Centennial was held scoreless for three innings by South Carroll starter Kile Maxcy. But the Eagles scored five runs in the fifth inning on five hits, two walks and two wild pitches.
Maxcy, a sophomore left-hander, pitched to the first three batters that inning, walking two and giving up a ground-rule double to Brian Dowell.
Reliever Charlie Kuykendall was treated roughly, giving up three straight singles by Mitchell, Darrell Knight and Joe Mellendick. Mellendick's hit drove in two runs.
If not for two base running blunders Centennial might have scored more than five runs that inning.
South Carroll, now 6-9, was hoping to stay alive in the Class 3A, Region III playoff race.
This game meant everything to us,'" South Carroll coach Joe Foltz said. We're out of the playoffs now, unless Centennial completely collapses.
The Eagles have four more games against Wilde Lake, Mount Hebron, Oakland Mills and Frederick.