Jimmy Simms was brilliant on the mound and his coach, Clayton Jacobson, made a few brilliant moves that paid off as third-seeded Anne Arundel Community College shut out Essex CC, 7-0, yesterday in Arnold in the preliminary round of the Region XX Division I Junior College baseball tournament.
Among the highlights: Simms pitched a two-hitter, first baseman Russ Curry was 2-for-3, including a two-run home run off loser Bubba Fisher, and Jacobson's call for a sacrifice bunt produced some key runs.
The victory advances the Pioneers (17-12) to the four-team, double-elimination finals, which start Friday at Essex with the Region XX winner gaining a berth in the National JuCo Tournament in Grand Junction, Colo.
Top-seeded Montgomery-Rockville and No. 2 seed Allegany had byes yesterday and will join Anne Arundel and the Hagerstown-Garrett winner Friday at Essex.
Essex won the national championship last year, eliminating Anne Arundel in the regional.
Yesterday, in preliminary-round action, Essex found it easy going in the first-round game. The sixth-seeded Knights (12-8) beat No. 7 Cecil County, 11-0, on a one-hitter by Mike Sigmund.
But, in the second seven-inning game, Simms masterfully changed speeds and ended the Knights' title reign.
Simms set down the first 13 Knights he faced before Ron Shankle doubled to left with one out in the top of the fifth. Sigmund led off the sixth with an infield hit.
The win was Anne Arundel's second in three meetings with Essex this season. Simms lost, 4-3, to the Knights in early April, but the Pioneers out-slugged the Knights, 11-7, on May 2 at Memorial Stadium. Simms started that game at the stadium but lasted only two innings.
"A couple days ago, Mr. Jacobson called me aside and told me that pitchers go through this [games like the one at the stadium], but that he hadn't lost any confidence in me and that I was still our big-game pitcher," Simms said.
Jacobson and pitching coach Larry Schillenberg spent last Saturday working on Simms' changeup in an intrasquad game.
"I had a lot of confidence in it today . . . " Simms said.
After Pioneers catcher Rich Spiegel singled to center for the game's first hit with two outs in the home half of the fourth and was replaced by courtesy runner Rick Ganz, Curry lifted a drive that just got over the left-field fence to make it 2-0.
In the Pioneers' next at-bat, K. C. Murphy singled to right and was sacrificed to second by Frank Updike. Designated hitter Steve Melynchuck singled to center to score Murphy.
Rarely are teams willing to give up two outs in the same inning by sacrificing, especially in college baseball, but Jacobson called for leadoff batter Chris Durocher to lay one down.
Durocher's bunt moved Melynchuck to second and Joe Hoyer doubled down the right-field line.