Thursday, December 12, 2013 3:25 PM
Published on: Thursday, May 23, 2013
By Holden Wilen
COLLEGE PARK – The clock has struck midnight for Cinderella.
The Maryland 4A West Region champion Churchill High School baseball team lost 4-3 in its state semifinal matchup Tuesday against Catonsville High School, bringing to an end a playoff run few saw coming.
Churchill (11-11) was unseeded in the playoffs yet won four consecutive games, including upsets over Walt Whitman High School and Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School en route to the regional championship.
Missed opportunities were a theme for Churchill in the loss, as the team left nine runners on base and had three runners thrown out at home plate.
“We had opportunities that we kind of let squander a little bit,” said head coach Scott Blackwood. “They are a very good team. We battled as much as we could. We had opportunities to score runs; we just could not get the job done today. Credit to them, they got the job done when necessary.”
Nerves seemed to get the best of the Churchill players at the beginning of the game. Catonsville senior Robbie Wheelton reached base on an error by the second baseman and then advanced to second when Churchill starting pitcher Ryan O’Carroll threw the ball away attempting to pickoff Wheelton. Two batters later, senior Catonsville catcher Jeremy Davis drove in Wheelton with a base hit to grab an early 1-0 lead.
Despite the jitters, O’Carroll and his Churchill teammates got out of the inning holding Catonsville to just the one run. O’Carroll finished the game allowing four runs (two earned), seven hits and three strikeouts.
In the bottom half of the inning, Churchill snatched the lead. After the first two batters reached base, senior first baseman Michael Albers drove in a run with an RBI single to right field. Junior Eric Brodkowitz drove in another run with a bloop hit to center field that scored a run.
In the third inning, Catonsville tied the game on Jeremy Davis’ second RBI single of the game. Davis finished the game 2-4 with two RBIs.
Catonsville took the lead for good in the fourth inning. After the first two batters reached base on a hit and a walk, junior Scott Beautz drove in a run with a sacrifice fly. Later in the inning, Catonsville scored another run after O’Carroll picked off a runner at first base, but a runner scored from third before the out was made.
Churchill came back with a run of its own, but it was never able to tie the game despite its opportunities. In the fifth inning, Albers, who finished the game 2-4, hit a one-out triple to get things going for Churchill but was thrown out at home by Beautz.
In the sixth inning, with runners on first and second and no outs, Churchill’s nine-hole hitter, Matt O’Lone, came to the plate. Instead of bunting the runners over, Blackwood elected to let O’Lone hit, but he struck out. Blackwood said he took a gamble because O’Lone had gotten a hit in his previous at-bat, and he was hoping he would get a fastball he could drive in the gap. The inning would later end with the bases loaded.
“Yes, the routine play or typical play is to lay a bunt down, but hey, you’ve got to take a chance,” Blackwood said. “We are here. We had nothing to lose, nothing to lose. So why not just leave it out on the field?”
With only two seniors on the roster, Churchill has a lot to look forward to next season after its magical playoff run to conclude the year. While a regional championship is great for the program, Blackwood said, the players need to continue improving and not take anything for granted.
“Yeah, we are regional champions, and yeah most of the team is coming back, but that does not mean anybody is going to lay down and go, ‘Here, have it again,’” Blackwood said. “We have got to come out and work even harder.”