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End of the line

Catoctin's comeback prevents Blazers from making another run to states

Catoctin's comeback prevents Blazers from making another run to states

May 16, 2009|By TIM KOELBLE

CLEAR SPRING -- Same script, same ending.

What happened when Clear Spring and Catoctin met in the regular season, happened again when the Blazers and Cougars decided the Maryland Class 1A West region title Friday -- and it wasn't to Clear Spring's liking.

Catoctin rallied from a 3-0 deficit with a four-run sixth inning for a 4-3 victory. It's the Cougars' fifth region title in eight years, and they will play in the state semifinals on Tuesday.

On April 6, Catoctin rallied from a 5-0 deficit to beat Clear Spring, 10-8. Friday's comeback held far more importance for the Cougars (16-4), who prevented the Blazers (15-3) from making a second straight state appearance.

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"It was a great high school baseball game with two teams that played hard, clean ball and the crowd was awesome," said Catoctin coach Mike Franklin.

That was an understatement.

A huge Clear Spring crowd was treated to an early 3-0 lead in the second inning. Blazers pitcher Josh Kehr mowed down the Cougars on 52 pitches through five innings, allowing a single in the fourth by Landon Routzahn as the only ball to get out of the infield.

Kehr allowed a leadoff single to No. 9 batter Ben Tylicki in the sixth. Zack Kreitz followed with a ringing double with one out to end Kehr's day after 61 pitches.

"It was the first time I've thrown anyone this year on three days' rest," said Clear Spring coach Mark Shives. "He's been the horse for us this year. He didn't have the knockout pitch, but got us to the sixth."

R.J. Smith greeted reliever Brandon Glazer with a two-run double, and suddenly the Cougars were clawing away.

After Routzahn's bouncing, infield single put runners at the corners, the Blazers brought in the infield. Austin Carter foiled the strategy with a bouncing single through the hole at short to score Smith and tie the game at 3.

The winning run came in as Carter broke from first and got caught in a rundown. Routzahn perfectly timed his break for home and beat the throw for the 4-3 lead.

"We've executed that play a couple of times this year to win games," said Franklin.

Albright, who will be attending George Washington on a baseball scholarship, pitched three innings of relief. The senior right-hander was tough on the Blazers with his low sidearm delivery.

"We didn't pick the ball up on his early release," said Shives. "He's been a horse for them."

"(Albright) is only 5-foot-7 but he's been a great four-year player for us and he came in and shut the door," said Franklin.

Clear Spring made a last-ditch effort in the seventh as Kehr led off with a bouncer to second that was misplayed.

In keeping with his style of attack, Shives elected to abandon a sacrifice attempt. Crist bounced into a 4-6-3 twin-killing. The double play really hurt when Jordan Thurber followed with a single, before Joel Rowe bounced out to second to end the game.

"We went 35-4 with this group of guys like Crist and Thurber and always played it this way," said Shives. "We hadn't done (the sacrifice bunting) and I didn't think about it."

Clear Spring got its three runs in the second on only one hit.

Smith walked Rowe and Josh Green to begin the inning before Brian Lesher popped out on a bunt attempt. Corey Morgan was hit by a pitch to load the bases and Rowe scored when Smith threw wildly to first on a pickoff attempt.

After roping a liner to left that fell just foul, Brad Banzoff struck out. Glazer picked things up with a stinging double to left center, scoring Green and Morgan.

Clear Spring's defensive play behind Kehr was all-world.

Banzoff made a diving snare of a liner at third in the second inning to rob Tanner Ausherman, and Crist made two defensive gems at second base in the fourth, one up the middle and one toward first base.

"We had an incredible defense today," said Shives.

While obviously disappointed, Shives still spoke with gleaming thoughts.

"Five years ago when I came here we won four games," he said. "Our seniors turned this program around. Look around here and people were all over the hill and around the fence. It was a great atmosphere because of these kids."

Catoctin 4, Clear Spring 3
Catoctin 000 004 0 -- 4 7 4
Clear Spring 030 000 0 -- 3 7 0

Smith, Albright (5) and Larsen; Kehr, Glazer (6) and Morgan. WP--Albright. LP--Glazer.

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