The Glen Burnie Gophers have been winning the close games throughout their magical playoff run. Yesterday afternoon's game was no different, except the reward was much sweeter.
Early runs, senior Jen Zabetakis's formidable pitching, and more steady defense had coach Bob Broccolino shaving off the mustache he has had since 1971.
The Gophers, ranked No. 1 in the metro area for most of the second half of the season, are now also No. 1 in the state after claiming a 3-1 win over Greenbelt's Eleanor Roosevelt to capture their third Class 4A state championship in three tries, the last in 1989.
"Remember this day, and remember the special group this is," Broccolino told his players afterward, dabbing for a mustache that was no longer there.
The Gophers (18-4) closed out their season by winning their last 12 games, getting past Anne Arundel County rivals Chesapeake, North County and Severna Park to win the rigorous East region before reaching the state final with a well-earned 3-1 win over Montgomery County's Watkins Mill.
And while poor base-running and not getting the big hit prevented them from breaking open a close game several times, it was apparent they were right at home late in the game.
Leading 3-1 in the top of the sixth, they stranded two runners in scoring position.
Roosevelt (15-4) then had runners on second and third in the bottom of the inning with two out. But Zabetakis, who allowed just three hits the entire way, got Laura Heinz to ground out slowly to third baseman Marianne Ogle, who threw a perfect strike to her sister Michelle at first.
"I was so nervous," said Marianne Ogle, who also singled and scored the Gophers' third run. "It's mechanical. We do it every day in practice, over and over again. And I can always count on Michelle to make the catch wherever I throw it. We've been waiting for this for four years, and we finally made it."
Broccolino said the tough road to the final was invaluable when yesterday's game was still close late.
"We were game-hardened. We had four really tough games in a row, and that had to help in this situation," he said.
Zabetakis came back to get the Raiders in order in the seventh, getting the final out and the championship when Melanie King hit a come-backer.
"I can't talk enough about Jen Zabetakis' heart. She's a bulldog," said Broccolino.
Class 2A baseball semifinal
Howard and Lansdowne, regional champs because of a rare double forfeit by teams that beat them, play a Class 2A state semifinal game at 4 p.m. today at Joe Cannon Stadium in Harmans, Anne Arundel County.
The two got to play after pitchers for Loch Raven and Atholton, which had won their regions, broke state innings limits and thus had to forfeit their semifinal, which Loch Raven won.
The winner of today's game will meet the Eastern Shore's North Caroline at 3: 30 p.m. tomorrowat Joe Cannon in the title game.
Pub Date: 5/22/98