MAUGANSVILLE — Elkton manager Dale Ross looked like he was rolling the dice, but in reality, he was betting on a sure thing.
In a gutsy move, Ross removed pitcher Jack Stewart with two strikes on Jimmie Gentry with one out and the bases loaded in the sixth inning with a two-run lead. He gave the hook to bring in the hook.
Enter Will Lorman. Exit Northern Calvert. Lorman dealt four straight curveballs, the first to strike out Gentry, followed by three straight to take down Kyle Kingsbury on Tuesday to preserve Elkton’s 5-3 victory in the winners’ bracket final of the Maryland State 11-12 Tournament at Maugansville Little League’s Jay W. Stouffer Field.
Non-Elkton fans started questioning the move. Ross was rather positive in his actions.
“I was watching (Gentry’s) swing and he was starting to catch up with (Stewart’s) fastball,” Ross said. “I got great faith in our pitching staff. I went to Will because he has that curveball that he throws when he is ahead in the count. He threw four straight and never tried a fastball.”
It sealed the hard-fought victory and gave Elkton all the benefits of winning the bracket. The District 5 champs are off and get to save their pitching staff until Thursday’s championship round begins. They will play the winner of Wednesday’s Northern Calvert-Conococheague rematch in the losers’ bracket final. The winner of that game will have to beat Elkton twice to win the title.
And while Lorman provided a flair for the dramatic, he beautified the gritty effort that gave Elkton the win.
Elkton took a 3-0 lead in the first, but allowed Northern Calvert to push into a tie with a three-run third. Elkton got runners on base and basically ran itself into the go-ahead run in the top of the fifth and added an insurance run in the sixth to salt away the win.
“That’s every game with us,” Ross said. “We say hitting is contagious and we were hitting the ball, but it seemed to be right at people tonight. The kids were doing their job, but so (was Northern Calvert).”
Elkton broke the 3-3 tie in the fifth as Stewart singled off Northern Calvert pitcher Justin Hitt to lead off the inning.
Dakota Hodgson followed with a single and Austin Ross drew a one-out walk to load the bases. Stewart scored on a wild pitch with two outs to Sam Sibol for the 4-3 lead.
Elkton got the added run in the sixth off Gentry as Rudy Webster led off with a single, Casey Baker walked and Nick Gregson singled to load the bases. Stewart hit a fielders’ choice grounder to score Webster.
Elkton took the early lead with three runs in the first on a two-run homer by Gregson and an RBI single by Hodgson.
Northern Calvert got back in the game against Stewart when two runs scored on a single and two-base throwing error. Kingsbury tied the game with a single.
But Elkton found a way to win and did it their way.
“It feels good. These are the words we live by,” said Dale Ross, holding a poster with the words Compete, Family, Encourage, Communicate, Focus and Energy that hangs in Elkton’s dugout. “We made it up when the team was announced and each player signed it. This is our contract.”