Mike Buzzeo delivered the game-winning hit, swinging at a pitch when he wasn't supposed to as No. 5-ranked Westminster rallied for four runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to escape with a 9-8 victory over visiting Liberty yesterday.
The improbable triumph gave the Owls the Carroll County championship, raising their record to 5-0 (13-5) with a game left at home against No. 6 South Carroll (3-2, 7-4, 9-5) at 4 p.m. today.
Additionally, it kept alive hopes for a share of the Central Maryland Conference crown. Westminster is 10-3, with South Carroll left, while Linganore finished 11-3 after beating Frederick yesterday, 6-1. South Carroll and Thomas Johnson have four losses each.
Liberty (1-4, 5-11) scored what looked like an insurance run in the top of the seventh, and pitcher Bryan Bandy appeared to be in control. The right-hander had kept Westminster bats relatively quiet since the second inning and had retired seven of the previous eight batters he had faced.
Owls bats promptly put an end to that illusion.
Mike Taylor, one of three Owls hitting better than .400, singled over shortstop, and Chris Matthias followed with a home run over the left field fence, raising his county-leading total to six and his leading RBI total to 24.
Matt Bowers then walked and opposing pitcher Nick Farver was hit by a pitch. Pinch hitter Brad Baker popped a single behind third base, scoring Kevin Greene (running for Bowers) with the tying run. One out later, Buzzeo lined the first pitch to left field, and Farver slid home with the winning run.
"I had the 'take' sign for that first pitch, but it was right down the middle," Buzzeo said. "I had to swing at it."
The day started with Liberty ahead 4-0, as this was the continuation of a rainout from last Friday. The home team wasted no time finishing Perry Sartain. Taylor singled and Matthias slammed a two-run double to left field. A walk and a two-on, two-out double by Chris Gibson picked up the third and fourth runs of the inning.
Singles by Mike Lamont and Matt Cavey bracketed a walk and a ground-out as the Lions broke the tie with two runs in the third. They added single runs in the fifth and seventh to build an 8-5 margin.
Bandy, who had started in center field, relieved Sartain to start the second and allowed one run (in the fourth) and five hits through the sixth.
He had to wriggle out of two jams. He got an inning-ending double play after the Owls had loaded the bases with three successive hits in the third, and in the fourth he ended a rally when he got Matthias to fly out to left field with runners at second and third.
While Bandy struck out three, walked three, and stranded eight runners, Farver had a strikeout, three walks, and left eight before leaving in the seventh.
Mike Rubin, a senior left-hander (3-0) who has specialized in relief work this season, came in with none out, one run in and the bases loaded. He allowed no further damage as he retired the next three batters, striking out two of them and throwing out the third.
Opposing catchers Gibson and Shawn Rausch exchanged comments while Rausch was at bat in the third and both were ejected.
Pub Date: 5/07/98