Five-year-old North County knows what it's like to chase the leader. Now it has to get used to being chased.
The No. 4 Knights (2-0) reversed roles with perennial Class 4A power Arundel, defeating the No. 3 Wildcats (1-1) in Gambrills, 5-3, yesterday.
Tweety Barton, a 6-foot-4 senior right-hander, pitched a four-hitter with nine strikeouts and three walks on 108 pitches.
"My fastball was my best pitch and I got my curve down after being high with it early in the game," said Barton in pitching the Knights' second straight complete game.
Mike Wooden stopped No. 10 Severna Park, 4-3 on two hits Tuesday.
"I feel real good about our start," said coach Don Usewick. "We've won two close games against two top teams by getting well-pitched games. "And we can play better."
Arundel finished as 4A runner-up to Perry Hall last year, after winning its last two state titles in 1993 (21-1) and 1991 (20-4).
Coach Bernie Walter has only two returning starters in shortstop Casey Trout and catcher Sean Fairbanks, and their senior leadership is a must on an inexperienced team.
That lack of game experience was crucial in the Knights' three-run third. Trout booted Wayne Feuerherd's ground ball, and Arundel junior starter Andy Vermillion (3 2/3 innings, five runs, seven hits, two strikeouts, no walks) slipped and fell on Joe Hizon's sacrifice bunt, leaving runners on first and second.
Usewick called for the bunt again. No. 9 hitter Scott Shamleffer dropped it on the third-base side.
Third baseman Steve Brunner and first baseman Brian Burden charged in while Trout raced to third, and second baseman Gene Collins covered second. But nobody covered first.
"That was simply inexperience," said Walter.
The two bunts led to a run-scoring grounder by Chris Rice, a wild pitch to score Hizon with Wooden batting, and Wooden's base hit to left to score Rice for a 3-0 lead.
Arundel got one back in the bottom of the third on a leadoff triple by Sean Buckler and one-out single by Vermillion, but the Knights got two more on their next at-bat.
C. J. Jones led off the fourth with a windblown homer over the right-field fence, and Shamleffer tripled in Hizon, who had singled with two outs. Shamleffer's liner was just out of the reach of a diving Eric Lundborg in right-center to make it 5-1 North County.
Vermillion was removed for Kurt Light after the Shamleffer shot, and Light, who got the decision in Tuesday's 17-4 win over Meade, retired four in a row before Vermillion re-entered to bat in a two-run fifth. Burden singled in both runs to make it 5-3.
Derek Loosararian replaced Light on the mound, had no trouble in the sixth and escaped a bases-loaded situation in the seventh that ended on Barton's fielder's choice and Rice over-running third base.
Barton struck out the first two batters, but Shamleffer's high throw on Trout's one-hopper allowed Trout to reach, and Vermillion walked. Barton ended the game by coaxing Burden, the No. 3 hitter, to pop up.