Tim Giles didn't want to be late for his senior prom, so he launched a shot over the left-center-field fence in the bottom of the ninth at Arundel yesterday to give the top-ranked Wildcats (18-1) a dramatic 1-0 victory over Chesapeake in the Class 4A, Region IV baseball semifinals.
With the extra-inning victory, top-seeded Arundel will play host to the Region IV championship game at noon today in Gambrills against Old Mill, a 12-4 winner over Patterson. Today's Region IV championship game will be the Wildcats' fourth straight, but it may have been the hardest earned.
Giles (8-1) battled Chesapeake junior left-hander Jason White (5-4) for eight scoreless innings. Both pitchers were nearly flawless until Giles ended it leading off the bottom of the ninth.
"I didn't expect the fastball he threw me on the first pitch, and the second pitch was another fastball on the outside corner and I went with it," Giles said his fifth homer of the season.
It not only put Arundel in today's championship game, but it also allowed Giles and four other senior baseball players to get to their prom. Game time was 2:30 p.m., not the customary 3:45, and even though it did go overtime, the two teams played the nine innings in less than two hours.
"Yeah, I guess you could say we [seniors] had to go, so I got it over with," said Giles laughing, and added seriously, "but I didn't know if it was going to be out or not. White pitched a heck of a game against us, which is what we expected."
White's home-run pitch was in precisely the same spot as one that Giles hit out off him in mid-April in what ended up being a 3-2 loss in eight innings for the Cougars.
"It was a fastball I wanted further outside," said White. "It was very disappointing because we had a good chance to win it."
Both teams had chances to win it in regulation, but neither could get the big hit, or if either did, somebody made a big play.
Tenth-ranked and fourth-seeded Chesapeake (13-7) used two nifty double plays as rally killers, and the Wildcats countered with equally outstanding defensive play.
Giles, who gave up six hits, struck out 13 and didn't walk a batter until two out in the eighth, used his sharp breaking curve to get out of a two-on, one-out situation in the first. The right-hander struck out clean-up batter and designated hitter Larry Wiles and White.
Arundel center fielder Jimmy Taylor made one big play that goes in the book and another that doesn't.
In the fifth, Chesapeake's Jerry Scheff doubled to left, and one out later Brian Doyle (3-for-4) lined a single to right-center. Taylor took the ball on one hop and threw home.
The ball came in on the fly and was up the third-base line, but catcher Mike Cozzone pulled it down and nabbed Scheff for the final out.
"If you're going to win state championships, you have to make plays like that," said Arundel coach Bernie Walter, who last won a state title in 1991 and is seeking an unprecedented sixth in his 20 years at Arundel.
Taylor's other big play was in the top of the eighth. Cougars designated hitter Larry Wiles reached on an error by shortstop Jeff Hedrick with two out and had second stolen on a ball in the dirt with Cozzone unable to make a throw.
As Wiles slid into second and was getting up to brush himself, Taylor yelled into Hedrick that the ball had been fouled off and Hedrick relayed the message to Wiles, who started back to first. Passing Giles, who had the ball on the mound, Wiles was tagged out.
"Despite the result, I think we made a statement today that this program is back," said second-year Cougars coach Jim Simms, whose team made it to the playoffs for the first time since 1989.