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Centennial's Couch rises to occasion with shutout

The Baltimore Sun

It's been said many times that pitching is the name of the game - and Centennial has it.

The Eagles' No. 3 pitcher, junior Joey Couch, pitched a five-hit shutout as the No. 8 Eagles beat visiting Fallston, 2-0, yesterday to win the Class 3A East regional title. It was the Eagles' second straight regional title and the fourth since 2001.

Centennial (17-4) plays the winner of the 3A North regional final between Patapsco and Catonsville today at 4 p.m. at Joe Cannon Stadium in the state semifinals.

"We've incorporated a full-team mentality," Centennial coach Denis Ahearn said.

"With all the rain backing games up, we had three strong pitchers, and that allowed us to weather the weather."

The Eagles are seeking their third state title, having won in 2001 and 2004.

Yesterday in a rematch of last year's 3A East final - in which Centennial's Ben Winter delivered a two-run homer in the bottom of the seventh to beat Fallston, 4-3, and complete the cycle - the result was not as dramatic, but certainly as effective for the Eagles.

"I started off as the No. 3 pitcher, but [the coaches] told me coming into this tournament that I would pitch a first-round game, so why not the region final?" said Couch, who threw 93 pitches. He struck out three, walked three and hit a batter.

"This is my first year pitching on varsity and it's been great. My fastball was working, and I was getting on the spots where my catcher [Russ Patti] wanted it. And my curveball started off rough but started working at the end."

Couch also drove in in the Eagles' first run with a double after a two-out double by Winter in the first inning.

The Eagles added an unearned run in the sixth inning on a sacrifice fly by designated hitter Mike Ross.

Jordan Lozzi pitched a five-hitter for the No. 14 Cougars (17-7). He had four strikeouts and two walks in an 88-pitch outing.

Fallston left eight men on base and left the bases loaded in the third. In the fifth, the Cougars failed to score despite three hits. Patti threw out a Fallston runner attempting to steal and thwarted what could have been a big inning.

"We had been hitting the ball well lately, but couldn't put anything together," Fallston's Mark Puckett

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