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Last step too high for Williamsport

May 29, 1999|By BOB PARASILITI

Wildcats dropped by Glenelg for 1A title

SEVERN, Md. - It was like a day at the races for the Williamport Wildcats.

They came to Saturday's Maryland Class 1A baseball championship looking to ride the "horse" that brought them them to the brink of the winner's circle one last time. The only problem was, Glenelg was stronger in the stretch.

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The Wildcats put their hopes in the durable right arm of Matt Bowman. The crafty senior battled for four innings, but the playoff season caught up with him in the fifth as Glenelg blew the game open with four runs en route to a 12-2 victory to defend its title at Joe Cannon Stadium.

Glenelg's Jeff Starcher outdueled Bowman as a leaky Williamsport defense forced the Wildcats' ace to throw extra pitches to get out of innings.

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"There was a little sloppiness in the field and when you play a good team, you can't be giving them four outs," Williamsport coach Rod Steiner said. "You especially can't do it in the playoffs. Matt battled, but the heat, plus he has to work so hard to get by. The defense has to help him out. If it doesn't, it makes him throw more pitches."

Pitches were at a premium for Bowman and Starcher after each started in Tuesday's semifinal wins. But Bowman threw 91 pitches in his five-inning stint, giving him a total of nearly 325 pitches in four playoff games in a 10-day span. He threw 32 pitches in the four-run fifth which ended his, and Williamsport's, season one win short of a seemingly improbable goal. Three Williamsport fielding errors and a couple of the mental variety were costly.

"I don't know ... I sort of (ran out of gas)," Bowman said. "In the first four innings, I felt good. But in the fifth, I didn't have my usual sharpness. They just hit the ball and I guess I left some pitches up."

Williamsport was within 2-1 after four innings. But in the fifth, three singles and two doubles brought home four runs and sent the Gladiators to a 6-1 lead.

Until then, Bowman had held the Gladiators (20-4) to two runs on four hits.

"We scouted Williamsport on Tuesday and knew (Bowman) had had thrown about 90," Glenelg coach Tom Thrasher said. "We just told the kids to be patient. If this team proved anything this year, it proved it could hit."

Williamsport got one run back when Bowman doubled to right, took third on Les Martin's grounder and scored on a wild pitch. Ryan Gross followed with a two-out triple, but was left on base.

"We just had too many popups," Steiner said. "All you have to do is look in the book. But when we were within 6-2, I told the kids we still had a chance if we held them there. It would have been a lot better if we had made it 6-3 though."

The Gladiators sent 12 batters to the plate in the sixth and roughed up reliever Brad Anders for six runs to end the game by the 10-rule after Williamsport failed to score in their half of the inning.

Williamsport used patience to take a 1-0 lead in the first. Matt Porac led off with a walk, took second on a groundout and scored on Martin's single before Starcher could settle in.

Williamsport (17-9) finished with seven hits, led by Bowman with two doubles and Gary Naile with two hits.

The loss put an almost unfitting to a remarkable run by the Wildcats, a team few thought would be in this position, and to Bowman's high school career.

The Wildcats finished the season by winning 11 of their last 13 games. For Bowman, he ended his senior year by playing in four sports and leading the Williamsport soccer team to the state finals.

"If anyone would have said we would be here today, I wouldn't have believed them," Bowman said. "We had a heck of a run at the end of the year. We lost this game, but just to be here was great."

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