Power hitting, pitching depth and a never-say-die attitude were the key ingredients in Centennial's 8-5, come-from-behind, eight-inning victory over host River Hill yesterday in Clarksville.
Under strong coaxing by coach Denis Ahearn, who wore a catcher's mask in the third-base coaching box to protect his face after a batting practice line drive last week broke four bones beneath his left eye, the Eagles rallied for two runs in the fifth inning, one in the sixth and two in the seventh to send the game into extra innings.
A two-run homer by Steve Czabaranek in the fifth inning and a bases-empty home run by Alex Bechta in the sixth inning were the key blows.
Scott Swinson drove in the winning runs in the eighth inning with a two-run single after Bechta's leadoff single and a double by Maryland-bound catcher Dan Shillingburg. He then scored when two River Hill players collided under a pop-up.
Its fourth straight win improved Centennial's record to 5-1 overall and 4-1 in Howard County, where the defending Class 3A state champion Eagles trail only unbeaten Reservoir. River Hill (4-2, 3-2) had won four straight games.
Facing River Hill's top pitcher, David Walters, the No. 12-ranked Eagles fell behind 4-0 after three innings. Walters allowed just two hits over the first four innings.
"It felt like dM-ijM-' vu," said Shillingburg. "We fell behind Glenelg yesterday, 4-0, and also came back to win that one. We're making big plays, and our pitchers are tough when they need to be."
Centennial relief pitchers Dan Townsend (fifth and sixth innings) and Bechta (seventh and eighth) held the Hawks hitless over the last four innings. Bechta did allow a tying run in the bottom of the seventh inning on three walks and a groundout.
Swinson, Centennial's starting pitcher, surrendered four hits and was the victim of two errors in a three-run River Hill first inning. River Hill's John Hand hit a two-run single and Austin Drewyer a one-run single. Swinson also gave up an RBI double to Riley Fenlon in the third inning.
River Hill allowed Walters (2-1) to start the eighth inning, and he gave up three straight hits.
Ahearn wasn't surprised that Walters kept pitching, saying: "He [Walters] is their horse, and you want your best out there in that situation."