Lions take measure of North

May 20, 2006|by DAN KAUFFMAN

ELDERSBURG, Md. - The saying is true: Baseball really is a game of inches.

North Hagerstown was done in by being on the wrong side of those inches Friday afternoon.

The Hubs ran headlong into a game full of frustrations during their quest for a return trip to the MPSSAA state tournament. Top-seed Liberty made just enough plays to pull out a hard-fought 4-3 victory in the Class 2A West final.

No play summed up the game quite like the last one.

North (13-10) scored a run on Freddie Kreiger's RBI single to pull within one run. The Hubs worked the bases loaded with one out and had Marcellus Sumlin at the plate. Sumlin hit a high-hopper to third baseman T.J. Somers, who came home for the second out.

Catcher Jason Rawlings fired a low dart to first that first baseman Jack Lambert scooped out of the dirt a split second before Sumlin stepped on the bag.


Liberty celebrated its berth to the state semifinals, while the Hubs were left to ponder their season's sudden end.

"Neither team deserved to lose," North coach Shawn Reynolds said. "It was a heck of a game."

For most of it, it was a game of two aces between Liberty's Robbie Mathias and North's Kent Worthington.

Worthington was shaky in the first inning, giving up a walk and two singles to the first three hitters to fall behind, 1-0.

Liberty made it 2-0 on a grounder up the middle that allowed the Hubs to turn a double play on for the first two outs.

Worthington settled down after the twin killing and would not allow another run until the sixth.

"He did a heck of a job coming off three days' rest," Reynolds said. "He kept us in the game. He just got a couple pitches up late."

Mathias set North down in order in the first two innings, striking out three, but the resilient Hubs battled back in the third with the bottom of the order. Tommy Evans led off with a double and Danny Olson singled.

That set up a gutsy - and successful - double steal, with Olson reaching second safely and Evans sliding under Rawlings' tag on the return throw home to make it 2-1. Olson later scored on Sumlin's sacrifice fly.

That was all the offense either team could muster until the sixth, when Liberty broke the tie as Worthington started to tire. With one out, the Lions got a single from Rob Hollasch before Mathias, Thompson and Lambert each ripped doubles. Even though Thompson was thrown out trying to stretch his two-bagger into a triple, the damage had been done.

Using a hard fastball and a hard, late-breaking slider, Mathias was tough, allowing six hits and three walks while striking out seven in a complete-game victory. He was helped tremendously by the defensive star of the game, Liberty right fielder Hollasch, who made two spectacular grabs to rob the Hubs of hits and ran down several other shots.

"We knew coming in we would be in a battle today, especially on the road," Reynolds said.

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