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Without rain, Hubs pour it on Southern

May 27, 2005|by DAN KAUFFMAN

kauffman@herald-mail.com

GAMBRILLS, Md. - This week's rain may have been an omen for North Hagerstown's baseball team.

"(Assistant coach) Fred (Kreiger Sr.) told me the last time we won the state title (in 1989), we got rained out on Tuesday and Wednesday," Hubs coach Shawn Reynolds said.

North is one win away from a little deja vu, thanks to a little hitting and a whole lot of hustle in Thursday's 10-5 victory over Southern-Anne Arundel at Arundel High School.

The Hubs (19-5) will face Eastern Tech - a 4-1 winner over North Harford in Thursday's other semifinal - on Saturday afternoon at 3:30 for the Class 2A state title at Joe Cannon Stadium in Harmans, Md.

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North, playing as the visitor, claimed a 5-0 lead in the third before watching it evaporate as Southern scored twice in the fourth and three times in the fifth.

But in the seventh, Matt Ridenour's two-strike bloop to left landed right on the foul line to drive in the tie-breaking run. It also opened the flood gates as the Hubs scored four more runs in the inning to pull away.

"The whole game, they pitched me away," said Ridenour, who was the only Hub to have two hits while driving in three runs. "I looked for a pitch I could hit to left field and it hit the line."

Matt Murray was hit by a pitch to lead of the seventh, and took second on a wild pitch. Ridenour fouled a couple of pitches off to left in his at-bat, but the one that counted somehow avoided slicing into foul territory.

"I knew if I didn't run and it was fair, I was going to get chewed out," Ridenour said.

Ridenour scored on Brent Toms' RBI groundout to make it 7-5. North added a run on a throwing error and two more when Chris Grove struck out on a wild pitch that went all the way to the backstop some 50 feet from home plate. B.J. Soto scored from third and Fred Kreiger Jr. raced all the way around from second to slide in safely around the tag to make it 10-5.

"We just used another element off our game tonight," Ridenour said. "We're usually a good hitting team, but the hits weren't flowing tonight, so we took advantage of the backstop being away (from home plate) and took extra bases."

The Hubs jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the third behind more hustle. With the bases loaded and two outs, Ridenour hit a slow-rolling grounder just past Southern pitcher Johnny Nevin, and slid head-first into first just as the throw from shortstop Ken Misal got there. Ridenour was ruled safe, Soto scored from third and Kreiger, in a wonderful display of heads-up baserunning, scored from second, easily beating the throw home.

"I knew once I hit the ball and saw it get by the pitcher, I had a chance," Ridenour said.

"A big hustle play leads to a big inning," Reynolds said. "Freddie, he scores from second twice and the ball never leaves the infield."

A wild pitch and a throwing error allowed the Hubs to score three more runs in the inning.

Southern made it 5-2 in the fourth on two hits and a Hubs error, and would have scored more were it not for a spectacular diving catch by Grove, who robbed Ryan Sullivan of at least a two-run triple and maybe an inside-the-park home run by snaring his liner down the right-field line for the second out.

Undaunted, Southern tied the game in the fifth on Nevin's two-run double and Pat O'Brien's RBI single, forcing Reynolds to go to the pen for ace Kent Worthington, who replaced Brian Barnhart.

Worthington worked 2 1/3 hitless innings for the win, striking out five and walking three.

"We just never die," Reynolds said. "We get down in some ballgames, and we battle back. The big thing is, we're there."

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