Howard was far from perfect yesterday in its season-opening 6-5 win over Mount Hebron, but after last year's 0-3 start, any victory was a welcome sight.
The defending county champs appear to have showed they're ready to win tough games.
"We lost some of those games [last season] because we weren't confident," Howard coach Rich Jenkins said. "Now that they've won the county championship and they're back this year, they think they can win these games."
Howard, which slugged its way to last spring's title, received some unexpected offense and a big defensive play to win the league game.
Brian King and Mike Burke each drove in two runs for the Lions. Joe Michalski knocked in three runs for Mount Hebron, including a two-run shot to left in the bottom of seventh, giving the Vikings (0-1) life before Derok Roach grounded out to first to end the game.
King, a 6-foot-4 senior left-hander headed to the University of Maryland, was rocky in his first start coming off a back injury during the off-season. He pitched four innings before giving way to Burke.
"I've only had about a month of baseball," said King, who allowed two runs on three hits with five strikeouts and two walks. "I'm just taking it slow, trying to get my strength back."
King homered to right on a 3-1 pitch with two outs in the fifth, giving the Lions a 6-1 advantage. His day on the mound ended after allowing a run-scoring double to Hebron starter Steve Swiech.
The Vikings made it 6-3 after Burke walked in Swiech with no outs. Roach hit a foul ball down the left-field line to third basemen Kevin Pumphrey, who threw out Max Markotic trying to tag up from third for a double play.
"It was a tough one," said Mount Hebron coach Matt Forsyth. "We just didn't finish, and they did. I think we were the better team. We just didn't finish."
A two-base error by Mount Hebron with two outs in the second opened the door for the Lions' first run, as King singled home Adam Snyder. Another two-out single, this one by John Brown, scored Justin Vonella for a 2-0 lead in the third.
Swiech drove in Mount Hebron's first run with a single in the third, but Howard tacked on three runs with a RBI single by Boomer Durham and a two-run double by Burke.
"We can't afford to give up a bunch of walks," said Jenkins. "We're not going to be that kind of hitting ballclub where we can come back. Last year, we scored a lot of runs, but this year we're not."