Lansdowne's Bob Wheelton purchased a Louisville TPX baseball bat Saturday. He also may have bought a few less sleepless nights for assistant baseball coach Ed Jackson.
Using his new bat in yesterday's Class 3A baseball semifinal at Arundel, the Vikings' third baseman hit an eighth-inning home run over the left-field fence to lift second-seeded Lansdowne (17-3) to a 5-4 victory over third-seeded Thomas Stone (18-5).
"I slept two hours last night, tossing and turning," said Jackson, who, along with head coach Ron Bareford, watched last year's state runner-up Vikings finish 16-5. "When I woke up, I told my wife, Kim, that I had dreamed Wheelton was going to hit one -- and he did."
Wheelton, who went 2-for-3 with a walk, said, "It was a fastball, plain as day -- not moving or anything."
The Vikings will face No. 4 seed Centennial, a 2-0 winner over Watkins Mill, in the other semifinal Saturday at McCurdy Field in Frederick.
Yesterday's game was a rematch of last year's 2-1 semifinal win over Thomas Stone, where Brian Sullivan, who this year is 4-2 with a 1.62 ERA, no-hit the Cougars for six innings before giving up a hit and a run in the seventh.
"Our school hasn't won a state championship in anything," said Bareford, in his 16th year. "It's certainly nice to be going back again."
Unlike last year, however, it was the Cougars who led 2-0.
The Cougars' first two batters, John Luther and left-handed pitcher Wayne Fowler (6-2), singled before Luther scored on a throwing error to get Rydell Taylor -- who had bunted -- at first base. Fowler took third on the play and scored on Scott Raba's sacrifice fly to left field.
The Vikings made it 2-1 after Wheelton -- who earlier singled -- scored as Randy Musgrove hit into a none-out, bases-loaded double play.
Lansdowne led 4-2 after three innings, capitalizing on Cougars miscues for a three-run third. The bases were loaded in the inning after Andy Stocksdale reached on an error to start the inning, a walk by Wheelton and Danny Muller's bunt.
Fowler balked to score Stocksdale, and Wheelton came home when Musgrove hit into a fielder's choice at second. Raba, the shortstop, overthrew first base on his double-play attempt, and Muller scored.
"We just made too many mistakes," said Thomas Stone coach Ed Glaser. "A mistake here or there in a game like this and it can be over."
After giving up his third hit in the top of the third, Vikings starter Josh Benson (3-0) retired 15 straight batters -- and 17 of the next 18 -- before walking Raba to start the seventh.
Raba went to second on a wild pitch, took third on a ground out and scored on Jaime Vallandingham's two-out infield single that slipped past Benson (two strikeouts, four hits).
Another wild pitch put Vallandingham on second before he tied the game on Mike Roberts' liner to right. Musgrove (7-0, 0.72 ERA) got the win, taking over in the eighth and retiring two of three batters with two walks.
"This is the third game in a row where we've had a shaky start in the first inning," said Bareford. "If we jumped out to a lead, I don't
know what I'd do. I might have to be worried."