The last time Severna Park and Sherwood baseball teams reached the state final, each left carrying the runner-up trophy.
That won’t be the case for one of these two traditionally strong squads this spring as the Falcons and Warriors punched their ticket to Friday’s 4A state championship game to be held 7 p.m. at Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf.
“I know they are good,” Severna Park coach Eric Milton said of Sherwood. “I’m sure they are undefeated like us. l’m pretty sure these are the best two teams in the state.”
Both made their way to Friday’s final in very different fashions as Severna Park (16-0) crushed visiting Laurel, 20-0, in five innings while Sherwood (13-0) slipped by previously undefeated Dulaney, 3-1, during state semifinal play Wednesday.
Severna Park last reached the state final in 2018 and last captured the crown in 2009. Sherwood fell in the 2019 final and last hoisted the championship trophy in 2010.
“Obviously, it’s going to be much more difficult than this game,” said Falcons shortstop Jackson Merrill, who went 3-for-4 with six runs batted in and two home runs, including a grand slam, against Laurel. “We’re ready for whatever we go up against.”
Merrill’s confidence stems from his team’s vaunted pitching staff that will be almost fully staffed and rested except for Tuesday’s quarterfinal winner, Michael Bowles. Severna Park has allowed just three runs, all against Howard in the quarterfinals, this postseason.
“It’s been good,” said Milton of team’s overall performance on the mound. “I don’t want to take anything away from a team that has come this far, but we knew we could save our top pitcher [Nick Carparelli] for the finals. It’s worked perfectly all season with our rotation.”
That pitching lineup also includes Wednesday’s starter Connor Eaton and reliever Clay Weaver, who combined for the shutout, and Merrill, the team’s hard-throwing closer.
The Falcons broke out the bats the last two games as well, scoring a combined 28 runs. Luke Herz started Wednesday’s onslaught with a three-run home run to dead center field after Merrill and Tucker McDonough drew walks.
“Our team chemistry” is why Severna Park has been so dominant this season, Herz said. “We’re all best friends and we hang out with each other and joke with each other. We’ll have to have our A-game to win Friday night, but we can do it.”
Still in the first inning, Evan Stefanovich was hit by a pitch to drive in the fourth run and Merrill made it 8-0 with his grand slam well over the right field fence.
Herz reached home on a wild pitch to push the lead to 9-0 before Daniel Key scored on an error for a 10-run advantage. Merrill’s second homer came in the third for an 11-0 advantage. That shot was also to right field.
“The guys show up to practice and they show up to games ready to play,” Milton said. “They show up enthusiastic and with passion.”
The Falcons added four more runs in the third, including a two-run single by Ben McLay, to extend to a 15-0 lead.
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Five more runs crossed the plate in the fourth in a variety of ways.