For the second season in a row the Wounded Warrior Project was highlighted on the baseball diamond.
The Thomas Stone baseball team hosted the second annual tournament on Saturday that included Arundel of Anne Arundel County and county foe La Plata.
In the tournament’s final game of the day versus La Plata, sophomore Eric Johnson had the highlight of the contest in the third inning with the game knotted at 1.
With two outs and the bases loaded, Johnson belted a grand slam on the first pitch from La Plata starter Tyler Smith to give the Cougars a four-run lead.
La Plata came within two runs in the bottom of the third, but Stone collected five more runs in the fourth and eventually cruised to an 11-5 win.
The homer from Johnson was the second of his high school career and changed the impact of the game, as Stone bounced back from a 12-6 loss to Arundel in the tournament’s opening contest that morning.
Johnson pointed out that on the first pitch he saw something good.
“It was a fastball up and in,” Johnson said. “Those are usually the pitches that if I’m going to drive one for extra bases, that’s what it’s going to be. Going up to the plate I just wanted to put a compact swing on it. All the practice paid off.”
The big shot was Johnson’s only hit of the game. He scored a run in the seventh.
“Beating La Plata was more than huge, we came into the game as underdogs, so it meant a lot because they’re our rivals,” Johnson said. “They are one of the better teams in our conference.”
The Cougars (3-6 overall) avenged a 6-1 nonconference loss to La Plata on April 2.
“That was huge because in the previous game we struggled a little bit, so it’s huge to get that big of a hit on this team,” Stone head coach Brian Reip said. “La Plata is always tough, they hit and they are always ready. This was [a] big win for us.”
Stone finally put some together to pull through with the win.
“We’ve been in some things where we didn’t have things go our way,” said Reip, whose team had nine hits for the game. “This game we were swinging the bats and luck was on our side.”
Senior Genkie Stoutamire had two hits, two runs scored and an RBI in the contest. One of the hits was a double to lead off the pivotal third.
“I wanted to do my part and relax out there,” Stoutamire said. “I wanted to do what I do best, which is hitting. Everyone wanted this and that grand slam lifted our energy.”
Stone’s Alex Connors also had two hits, one of which was a double and run scored in the game.
Stone junior starting pitcher Ryan Deal earned the win in five innings of work, striking out seven batters and giving up three earned runs. He walked four batters and also hit three.
“We are always excited to play La Plata, they were [Class 3A] state finalists a year ago,” Deal said. “We needed this win, this will help our confidence definitely.”
Stone’s Craig Eure pitched the final two innings in relief, striking out one batter and yielding one run.
After taking a 1-0 lead in the first, the closest that La Plata came would be when it brought the Stone lead to 5-3 in the bottom of the third.
During that span, senior Anderson Burgess crushed a two-run double, bringing Colin Stine and Jordan Twiford to home plate.
That was Burgess’ only hit of the game, as he also drove in two runs. Twiford was 2 for 4 with an RBI double in the fourth and scored the game’s first run on an error.
“[Stone] hit the grand slam and we just didn’t react well to adversity,” said La Plata head coach John Childers, whose team won 9-7 over Arundel earlier that afternoon. “We just weren’t focused and they played a great game and we didn’t.”
Smith pitched the first three innings, striking out three batters and yielding three hits. Troy Konzen pitched two-thirds of an inning and freshman Justin Snell pitched the final three and one-third innings, striking out six and walking one batter.
“We used up a lot of pitching [last] Wednesday and today, so we had to go to some kids that don’t have a lot of time. They struggled a little bit, we got our heads down and didn’t make plays.”
In the Arundel game, Tony Nordlund led Stone with a 3-for-4 outing and drove in a run, while Johnson was 2 for 4.
In La Plata’s win over Arundel, Justin Snell was 2 for 3 and Twiford was 2 for 4. Stine tripled and had two RBIs, while Jake Williams earned the win on the mound, giving up three runs in four innings and striking out two.
Stone will take on host Northern and La Plata will host Chopticon as the teams get back to SMAC action. Both games are at 4:30 p.m. today.
For the cause
The purpose of the Wounded Warrior Project is to foster and donate money to the men and women who sacrifice their lives for the country in battle.
“This is the second year in a row we’ve been raising money for the Wounded Warrior Project. ... Before the game I told that word on the back of our shirts, ‘courage’ represents to play for that meaning. I was really appreciative of coach Childers and La Plata’s efforts for the project,” Reip said.
“It’s a great thing when you can do something for somebody and play the game that you love,” Childers said.
“Today was all for the Wounded Warriors and we want to make them happy. ... We wanted to raise money for them, so that they could support their families,” Deal said.
“Coach Reip stressed that this game was for the troops and have fun,” Stoutamire said. “They sacrifice their lives for us every day, so we have to be thankful to even be playing baseball.”
Thomas Stone 11, La Plata 5
Stone 005 500 1 11 9 4
La Plata 102 101 0 5 6 3
WP Deal, LP Smith
Extra-base hits: 2B Connors (TS), Stoutamire (TS), Twiford (LaP), Burgess (LaP), Stine (LaP); HR Johnson (TS)