Before their winner-take-all Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association C Conference championship, the members of the Key baseball team walked into their locker room at Joe Cannon Stadium and started to dance. It was an effort to reclaim their identity.
The boys who lost in 12 innings on Sunday might’ve had their uniforms and names, but they weren’t the Obezags. Weak pop flies, fielding errors and the inability to drive in runs weren’t common Key traits, nor was the pitching that gave up 11 runs to Concordia Prep. The silent, motionless dugout that watched it all certainly wasn’t them.
The difference became even clearer when the true Key baseball team returned Monday afternoon. Its offense crushed pitches and its pitching was lights-out as the Obezags beat Concordia Prep, 13-2, in five innings to win their second straight MIAA C Conference crown.
That, the team hugging each other on the diamond and hoisting a plaque, was Key.
“We wanted to have fun today. Yesterday, we had no fun,” senior Lachlan Armstrong said. “Nobody was nervous today. Everybody was loose, having fun, and the score certainly reflects that.”
The back-to-back titles, only the program’s third overall, were something coach Gary Gallant set into motion years before. He knew many of his current players from rec ball and recruited the rest.
“A lowkey mastermind,” Armstrong, who had two hits and three RBIs Monday, called him.
“The program had a big question mark about our class. We all knew we had talent, but could we actually capitalize on it?” senior catcher Colin MacNabb said. “And through everyone’s hard work, we did.”
The Obezags shook off their canceled freshman year by working through the offseason. They earned the No. 1 seed in 2021, but were upset in the semifinals. In 2022, they unseated the defending champion Saints in blowout fashion. But that wouldn’t be enough.
“The idea that we can go out with a win, with those six seniors — my son being one of them — means the world to me,” Gallant said. “Probably one of the highlights of my life.”
Monday, Gallant asked his players to remember that work, as well as the time when they were little kids, just playing baseball for the joy. That’s just what the Obezags did, right up to the second out of the fifth inning.
Key (19-4) burned through four pitchers Sunday and the team worried it would be a six-man effort on the mound Monday. Junior Chris Williams gave up two runs in the first inning, but only allowed one hit the rest of the way. The junior struck out three in five innings, including the final batter of the game.
“Once I saw we had two outs and two strikes, I tried to get everybody going,” MacNabb said. “Because I trusted Chris.”
Gallant added: “We’re working on Chris for the future. Today, he showed what all that hard work can really do.”
Sunday, Key left runners stranded in almost each of the 12-inning disappointment. Monday, it took one pitch into the top of the second for the true Obezags to come out.
Senior Sean Boomer launched off the first pitch he saw from Saints starter Nate Dooling. The bases wouldn’t empty again until Boomer’s second at-bat in the inning.
Hits and mistakes: a recurring theme.
The bottom of the order — Williams, Angus Lunt-Woodward (2 RBIs) and Erhan Ortiz — set up the party with with singles, doubles, sacrifice flies and, most importantly, RBIs, so by the time leadoff hitter Jack Gallant returned to the plate, the game was already tied at 2.
MacNabb flipped the lead for good, drilling a pitch to left field while Ortiz and Gallant flew home. MacNabb had two hits and three RBIs in the game. Then, Armand Ortiz strolled up.
The Obezags captain pitched a complete game in the championship game as a junior. But on Sunday, his command never really settled in. He nearly won the game hitting a ground ball down the left-field line in the ninth, but a close play was ruled foul.
“I just thought, whatever happened yesterday had to be flushed. It’s in the past; I couldn’t make up for those calls. Today’s a new day, a day at the beach,” Ortiz said. “Have a calm, collected mindset.”
His single in the second padded Key’s lead to 5-2. In the third, Ortiz shipped a ground ball to left field, a single unmistakably fair, and scored his little brother for Key’s 10th run.
“We really found the holes today, and when we didn’t, we hit hard, right at them, forced them to make the play,” Armstrong said.
No play could be made in Armstrong’s final high school at-bat. He took reliever Jordan Mentzell’s fourth pitch yard, a speeding 340-footer that cleared the left field wall and drove in the last two runs.
“That’s a great way to end my career,” Armstrong said with a grin.
With six errors and countless more mistakes, Concordia Prep’s dynamic defense that earned them Sunday’s win was gone.
After two Concordia Prep runs scored in the bottom of the first, the Saints angled for more. Jake Brintnall pelted a grounder at Kamins. Kamins met Lunt Woodward at second for the out, who then whipped a pass to Armstrong at first base. The senior hustled to the bag, a second before Brintnall’s foot touched it, for the double play.
“It really settled everybody. We realized, we’re still that team,” MacNabb said. “We got this.”
The Saints cemented their place as Key’s conference rivals over the past few years. By battling into Monday, Concordia Prep tied the opponents’ all-time record. That, Ortiz said, was another important driving factor to end things on the right foot as decisively as possible.
“We really wanted to put it to them,” Armstrong added, “for our legacy, not only for this program but this league. That’s what we did today.”