Fourth-seeded Francis Scott Key jumped on top-seeded Dunbar with a three-run first inning and never looked back, coming away with a 7-4 win in a Class 1A, Region II semifinal yesterday at Clifton Park.
Starter Dave Ruskey and John Engel did the job on the mound for the Eagles (10-9), allowing four hits.
They had plenty of early support from the Eagles offense, which built a 6-0 lead after three innings.
The win was the Eagles' sixth in their past seven games. They advance to the region final today against third-seeded Brunswick -- which defeated Owings Mills, 6-3, yesterday. Game time is 11:30 a.m. at Dundalk Community College. Dunbar finished its season 9-5.
Key's Rick Hooper led off the first with a walk and scored one out later on a double to right by Matt Haines.
Haines scored on a single up the middle by Ruskey, who later scored from third when Dunbar pitcher E.J. Fitzgerald threw low to first trying to pick off John Engel, who walked.
"That was big getting on them early," said Key coach Bob Caples.
"That first inning we really came alive and that was crucial. The kids were pumped up after a good week of practice and ready to go."
The Eagles made it 4-0 in the second with an unearned run and added two in the third, with Mark Smith coming up with a two-out single between third and short to score both.
After retiring six of the first seven Dunbar batters, Ruskey ran into control problems in the third and was relieved by Engel after walking three of the first four batters to load the bases.
All three runs scored with the help of two Key infield errors, and Dunbar cut the lead to 6-3. The Poets had a chance to cut into the lead further with runners on first and third, but Engel picked off Scooter Banks at third to end the inning.
Engel took over from there, keeping the Poets guessing by mixing his fastball with a slow curve. He struck out the side in the fourth and allowed just one run, on Banks' sacrifice fly in the seventh.
"He pitched pretty well and had our kids off balance," said Dunbar assistant coach Bernard White.
"We came in a little nervous and made some mistakes early on, but I was proud of the way we fought back. Things just didn't go our way."
The Eagles will start ace Jason Smith today against Monocacy Valley Athletic League foe Brunswick. The Railroaders won both of the regular-season games between the two.