Bob Hough email@example.com
ABERDEEN – There was no late-inning drama needed this time.
After winning its last two state playoff games on walk-off hits, Southern’s baseball team used a five-run fifth inning on Saturday on its way to a 6-1 victory over Eastern Tech in the Class 2A state final at Ripken Stadium.
Southern (16-8) won its second straight state championship and became the first county public school to win two straight since Northeast in 1991-1992. The Bulldogs’ title gives the county a state champion for the third straight season.
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“That was an intense game. If we don’t get those five runs in the fifth, we’re looking at a nailbiter,” Southern coach Frank Hood said. “Anybody can come back. Six to one I’ll take over 3-2 any time.”
The Bulldogs won last year’s state title when Garrett Gibson singled home the winning run to beat Parkside. Truman Thomas hit a two-run home run to invoke the 10-run rule in a region final victory over Patuxent, then Dillon Waters doubled home the winning run in the bottom of the 11th inning of Tuesday’s state semifinal victory over South Carroll.
When DJ Coleman threw out Hunter Coppell for the final out on Saturday, it was almost as if the Bulldogs weren’t sure how to react.
“I guess it really wasn’t exciting as last year with the walk-off,” said Coleman, who said he wanted to dedicate the season to his mother, who passed away in February. “I was dreaming for it because I didn’t have a ball hit to me all day. It came to me and I got the out, and now I have two.”
Coleman went 2 for 3, including a two-run single that gave the Bulldogs a 4-0 lead in the fifth. Mitchell Johnson reached on an error to score courtesy-runner CJ Wiley with the fifth run.
“When DJ’s mom passed, the conversation he had with us is ‘Let’s win one for Mom,'” Hood said. “He delivered the big knock right back through the box. That’s having confidence in yourself and keeping your faith.”
Southern’s five-run inning was more than enough for Thomas, who went six innings and gave up one unearned run on two hits, struck out 10 and walked three on 124 pitches. He retired the first seven batters he faced before Andy Corbett’s double in the third. Thomas walked Coppell to put two on with two outs, but struck out Dalton Decker to end the inning. Thomas also struck out Decker to end the fifth with two on and a run in.
Since coming on in the top of the seventh inning of the state semifinal, Thomas pitched 11 innings and gave up one earned run and struck out 20. He struck out the final batter in nine of the 11 innings.
“It was really tight until the fifth inning when we got a bunch of runs,” said Thomas, who will play at Maryland next year. “It’s a lot easier to pitch with a lead than in a tight ballgame.”
JC Dilts, who singled in a run to tie the state semifinal in the bottom of the 11th, went 2 for 3, Brendan Carwile was hit by a pitch, walked, scored a run and had a sacrifice bunt that led to a run and Jon Artale struck out two and pitched a scoreless seventh for the Bulldogs. Fellow seniors Billy Albaugh and Johnson were also on base twice on Saturday.
“They’re tough. They had to deal with me, just like the seniors had to deal with me last year,” Hood said. “We told the seniors, ‘Hey, we’re going to teach you. You just have to go out and execute’ and that’s what it comes down to.”
Southern joins St. Mary’s and Archbishop Spalding as county baseball teams who repeated as champions this year after the Saints and Cavaliers captured their titles last Sunday, also at Ripken Stadium.
“I don’t think it gets any tougher than that,” said Hood, on coming back to win a second straight title. “I feel like we pulled a lot of teams best games. You’re going to get everybody’s best because you’re the champion until you get knocked off the following year.”
Corbett had a double and Ian Tokofsky reached on an error and scored the only run for Eastern Tech, which lost for the second straight time in a state final after winning it all in 2005 and 2007.
“It was a close game, but we had one inning where he (Eastern Tech starter Jack Young) just had no more left,” Eastern Tech coach Spike McElfish said. “I’ve never been more proud of a team. We were 1-5, and nobody thought we had a chance. They put a run together, and we came up a little bit short. They continued to fight, held on and kept the faith.”
|Eastern Tech (14-8)||000||010||0||–||1||2||1|
WP: Thomas (5-1). LP: Young (4-2) 2B: SO – Dilts; ET – Corbett. RBI: SO – Coleman 2, D. Waters, B. Waters.
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