It's important for pitchers to know their coaches have confidence in them. Yesterday at Calvert Hall, Severna Park coach Jim McCandless showed Harrison Taylor, a previously untested junior right-hander, that he believes in him.
The result was a 9-8 victory for the visiting and No. 2 Falcons over the top-ranked Cardinals on a brutally cold day at McManus Field. Because his coach believed he could get the job done, Taylor went from goat to hero as the winning pitcher in relief in his team's season opener.
Chris Crum's infield hit drove in Dean Samuel with the winning run in the top of the seventh after the Cardinals had tied the game on a booming grand slam to center by Scott Krieger off Taylor in the last of the sixth.
"We weren't going to lose no matter what. It was a huge game because they're ranked No. 1," said Crum.
"Right now our pitching is just fair, and we're just making too many fundamental mistakes," said Calvert Hall coach Lou Eckerl. "The weather does have something to do with it, but we just need to work a little harder."
Taylor, a spot pitcher as a sophomore for last year's Class 3A state champions, replaced starter Crum in the bottom of the sixth with an 8-3 lead. The Falcons had scored three runs in the top of the sixth on RBIs by Crum, Justin Eid and designated hitter Jeff Wollentin off Cardinals reliever Jon Kibler.
Kibler replaced starter Tim Sexton during a two-run Falcons fourth.
McCandless changed pitchers because pitch counts are very important on March days better suited to an Iditarod than to baseball.
Crum had thrown 72 pitches and given up three runs on four Falcons errors in the second. In five innings he yielded four hits, walked four and struck out three.
"I was nervous as heck when I went out there [in the sixth] and didn't have my control," said Taylor, who walked three, including a bases-loaded walk to Mike Newton, before Krieger's slam.
"After he hit it, I was numb all over, couldn't feel my legs. I don't like stealing a win from another pitcher."
After the slam, Taylor got Calvert Hall's cleanup hitter Gavin Swanson, who had hit a three-run homer in a 9-5 loss by the Cardinals (1-2) to Moore Catholic of New York on Sunday, to fly to left to end the inning.
Samuel led off the seventh by dropping an unplayable bunt, was sacrificed to second by Andrew Ferris and raced to third on a wild pitch while Crum was batting. Crum, who was 3-for-4 with a double and three RBIs, hit a shot up the middle off Steve Morton, who had replaced Kibler.
It was knocked down as Samuel scored. Morton struck out the next two Falcons, including first baseman Brandon Howse. Howse had two hits and three RBIs, including a two-run homer in a three-run third.
Taylor got the first two in the bottom of the seventh, but catcher Joe Daddura singled to left to keep the Cardinals alive. Mike Stangroom then popped out to second baseman Samuel to end it.
"I had confidence that Harrison would get it done when he had to," said McCandless. "It was gut-check time."