The morning before the 15th-ranked North Harford baseball team took on No. 8 Fallston in a key Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference game, Hawks coach Tim Larrimore said, "Our hitting has surprised us at times."
Later last Wednesday afternoon, Larrimore experienced one of those times, when his leading hitter, Jake Barben, hit his first home run of the season, and Kyle Cook and Brandon Schmidt hit doubles against the Cougars.
The power surge wasn't enough, however, to prevent a 7-4 loss, dropping North Harford to 6-2. And even though Hawks starting pitcher Andy Cunningham (2-1 this season after going 5-0 last year) suffered his first loss in two seasons on the mound, there is cause for Larrimore to be optimistic.
A team that is built on strong pitching and defense suddenly is displaying an ability to stay in games with their bats. Six batters are hitting above .300, led by Barben, a junior who is batting .500 with six RBIs.
The others hitting above .300 are Marc Hemling (.400, one double), Tyler Maguire (.391, team-leading eight RBIs), Ryan McMillan (.381, seven RBIs), Cook (.370, three doubles, one triple) and Schmidt (.307, one double).
Cunningham, the ace of the staff last season when he was a first-team All-Harford County selection, is being pushed this season for the role of No. 1 starter by Vin Brown, who is off to a 2-0 start with an 0.00 ERA and two saves in 16 innings.
"I have tough choices to make each game when I make the lineup," Larrimore said. "We have three juniors and a senior who can all play the outfield and hit well, and I only have one spot in the lineup."
Larrimore began to see his team come together last weekend when the host Hawks captured the Mike Lacey tournament by beating Long Reach, 10-0, in five innings, and Atholton, 9-4, in the championship game.
Bel Air rides defense
The Bel Air boys lacrosse team jumped off to a 5-2 start this season, riding the hot goaltending of senior Brandon MacKnew, who has a .710 save percentage.
MacKnew is a two-time All-Harford County selection, and he joins senior midfielder Adam Cooper as the leaders of a defensive-minded Bobcats team.
"We're still looking for our offensive identity," coach Scoop Kelly said. "We ended up having to meet Fallston in the playoffs last year, and that always makes it tough. We already met them once this year and lost, 9-6, after being down 5-0. They're very strong."
Mariners hang tough
The Joppatowne No. 1 boys doubles tennis team of seniors Marquis Johnson and Spencer Goralski could have a 4-1 record instead of 2-3 this season with a little more luck, said their coach, Drew Pesci.
"They've lost two really close matches," said Pesci, who is still waiting for his 0-5 team to record a victory.
The Mariners' No. 1 boys singles player, junior Ben Wade, has yet to win a match, but he has been competitive, Pesci said.
"It's more like a mind over matter," Pesci said of Wade. "Since he's out there on an island all by himself, I think once he experiences his first win as the No. 1 singles player, things will start to happen."