Heartbreak struck the Severna Park baseball program once again Friday night.
After enduring back-to-back gut-wrenching losses to Howard in the Class 4A state semifinals in 2017 and again in the 2018 championship game, the Falcons stranded a runner each in the sixth and seventh innings before falling 5-4 in eight innings to undefeated Sherwood in the state championship game at Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf.
It’s the first loss of the season for the Falcons, who rode into the final with a 16-game winning streak.
“Every time, we get a lead and we can’t finish,” Severna Park first baseman Luke Herz said. “It’s going to happen, but this one hurts.”
The Warriors (15-0) scored the game-winning run in the top of the eighth inning on a single up the middle by Ryan Bouma that scored Nico Pernie, who reached on an infield single in the hole at shortstop to start the inning against Falcons closer Jackson Merrill.
Josh Hollowell (6-0) then closed out the win in relief, striking out two before inducing a flyout to right field to secure the program’s first state crown since 2010 and third overall.
“It feels good,” said Sherwood coach Sean Davis, who knows somewhat of Severna Park’s pain as his squad fell to Old Mill in the 2019 state final. “The coaching staff is thrilled. I couldn’t be happier for these boys. They grind and they fight. They were down two and could have given up.”
Herz helped supply that 2-0 third-inning lead and break up what was a dominant start by both Severna Park ace Nick Carparelli and Sherwood’s Brett Seils with a come-backer to the mound with the bases loaded. Seils couldn’t handle it, which allowed a runner to score, and lead grew to 2-0 on a run-scoring single up the middle by designated hitter Daniel Key.
Merrill, however, was thrown out at the plate on the play to limit the rally.
Sherwood answered back with four runs in the top of the fifth on four hits, an error, and a sacrifice bunt. Pernie drove in two of those runs on a single to center field for a 4-2 lead. A dropped ball in center and an infield hit with first base left uncovered on ball hit between first and second base plated the other two runs.
“You can’t make mistakes against a good team and expect to win,” said Falcons coach Eric Milton. “It was a tough game.”
Staring at their first deficit of the postseason, the Falcons responded with two runs in the bottom half of the fifth on a two-run single to right-center field off the bat of Herz to score two runs. Pinch hitter Nick Marsella, who singled, and Merrill, who drew a walk, crossed the plate, but Herz was picked off at second to end the rally.
“I was honestly sitting on a fastball and I adjusted,” Herz said about his game-tying hit. “I threw my hands and I was fortunate to get the ball over the second baseman’s head.”
Severna Park left a runner on base in both the sixth and seventh innings, including a walk drawn by Tucker McDonough in the seventh that Herz followed with a shot to right field that was eventually tracked tracked down and caught by Pernie.
“We had our opportunities, but we made mistakes and we couldn’t get a hit at the right time, " Milton said.
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Despite the loss, it was another exceptional season for Severna Park. Nine of its 16 victories came via shutout, and it finished with a run-differential of 141. The Falcons had Anne Arundel County’s best offense, averaging 9.56 runs per game, and the best pitching staff and defense and allowed just 31 runs in 17 games. Merrill, a University of Kentucky commit, could also be an early selection in next month’s Major League Baseball Amateur Draft.