Brunswick, winner of the past three Class 1A state baseball titles, took a big step toward No. 4 yesterday, beating top-seeded Fallston, 6-1, in a state semifinal at Dundalk Community College.
Jason Ricketts was the hero for the winners with a two-out, two-run triple and 2 2/3 innings of near-flawless relief pitching. The two runs were part of a three-run fourth, and Brunswick added the other three in the seventh on a five-hit barrage.
The Frederick County school won its third straight playoff game after a 10-7 regular season. Fallston's 17-game winning streak was halted, as it finished 20-3.
"Five of our players have been to three state tournaments and they know what it's all about," Brunswick coach Roger Dawson said. "Jason is hitting about .480 and was the area pitcher of the year, too."
Fallston starting pitcher Brandon Brockmeyer, who had pitched a five-hit shutout in a regional playoff last Friday, was in and out of trouble through the first three innings, allowing two hits and walking three. Walks in the fourth set the stage for what turned out to be the decisive runs.
Greg Barnes singled to right for one run, and Ricketts unloaded his triple over center fielder Shaun Matthai.
"I just did not feel as strong as I usually do," Brockmeyer said.
The Cougars, who had let a potential run-scoring situation get away on the base paths in the second inning, got their run in the bottom of the fourth.
Barnes, who had made two diving catches in a regional final Saturday, missed one on Ryan Sapp, and he ran it into a triple. Matthai singled him home and Dawson went for Ricketts in relief of Stockman.
He retired the last eight batters, with the only runner (via a walk) getting thrown out attempting to steal.
Fallston clipped Stockman for seven hits, but could not break through until the fourth.
The only other scoring chance was in the second, when Adam hit a one-out double to left. Brockmeyer hit a shot to the third baseman, the ball caromed over to the shortstop, and Adam was caught in a rundown. Brian Benner followed with a single to right, but Brockmeyer was run down after rounding third.
Of his team's record, Dawson said, "Even in our best year, we probably had five losses. We play in a tough league, and taking those losses gets us ready for the playoffs."
Fallston, on the other hand, was making its first appearance in the state semifinals, but coach Mark Puckett did not see that as a factor.
"If there were errors or we looked in awe of being here, then I'd say yes," he said. "As it is, most of these players have been at the national level in junior baseball leagues or the state tournaments for soccer [Fallston won the championship] or basketball [lost in the semifinals]. We were ready. We just didn't do it."