For three straight innings, the Bowie baseball team worked out of one potentially game-ending jam after another through some defensive gems, including an inning-ending double play in the bottom of the seventh.
But Bowie's luck finally ran out in the bottom of the ninth on a single to left field by Dalton Durocher with two on and one out to give 4A East champion Arundel a 3-2 victory during Tuesday's 4A state semifinal contest at the University of Maryland's Shipley Field.
The Wildcats (20-6) will now play Northwest (15-6), which defeated Sherwood, 7-6, in 10 innings in the second half of the 4A semifinal doubleheader. The site, day and time were yet to be determined because Arundel's prom is set for Friday night.
Bowie concluded coach Bob Estes' final season with a 19-3 record.
“It's bound to happen,” said Bulldogs catcher Matt Bieler, who singled and was hit by a pitch in three official at-bats. “We stayed in it until the very last out. I'm proud of everybody. It was a great season. No one expected to do that at all.”
With the scored tied 2-2 heading into the bottom of the seventh inning, Arundel pinch hitter Josh Gall belted a leadoff double but pinch runner Ethan Plummer was thrown out at third by Bieler, who collected a bunt by Matt Shin in front of the plate and rifled the ball to third.
Shin, however, reached second on a wild pitch, Syeed Mahdi singled and Keith Grassel was intentionally walked to load the bases. Durocher then popped the ball to second baseman Bennett Garner at the edge of the infield. Shin tagged up from third but Garner threw him out on the play.
“We went over this a couple of weeks ago when it happened against … Bladensburg,” Estes said. “They tried to advance a runner and we got caught flat-footed. I know Bennett remembered it because he made the play.”
Arundel worked two more on with one out in the eighth but relief pitcher Sam Garmoe induced a pair of flyball outs, including one he caught himself with Bieler bearing down on him from behind the plate.
That bend-but-don't-break strategy finally came back to hurt the Bulldogs with Shin opening with a single to center field; he reached second when Bowie center fielder Kyle Carter bobbled the ball. After a pop out at second base, Grassel was intentionally walked. Durocher then drove a no-ball, one-strike pitch just past the glove of third baseman Mark Vogel to score Shin for the win.
“It's hard to do; when you get in a hole and get out of it three times, four times, one of them is going to get you,” said Bowie first baseman Brady Barr, who drove in both of Bowie's runs on a pair of doubles. “It happens. We had a good season.”
Bowie jumped out to a 1-0 lead on Barr's first double to deep left center field following a single to right field by Matt Bieler in the top of the first but Arundel answered in the bottom of the first on a double to the center field fence by Keith Grassel.
Starting pitchers Dylan Crossed and Steve Ghiardi settled down considerably from there. Crossed retired the side with little effort from the second through fifth innings while Ghiardi struck 10 batters during that same stretch of the game. Ghiardi finished with 14 strikeouts in his seven innings of work and reliever Cooper Hibbs recorded three in his two innings.
Bowie finally broke through against Ghiardi in the top of the sixth. Bieler was hit by a pitch and his courtesy runner, Derrick Goode, scored on a double to left field by Barr with two out. It seemed like a surprise move to pitch to Barr with two out, considering Ghiardi had fanned the fifth through ninth batters all 11 of their at-bats through the first five-plus innings.
“He threw me a fastball and I was like, `Oh, there it is' and I hit it,” said Barr, who crushed the pitch to the left field wall. “I was looking for a fastball the whole time.”
Arundel, however, tied the score again in the bottom of the sixth on an error and then a double to deep center field by Michael Heverling with two out. Crossed (6-2) got out of the inning but was lifted after Gall's double in the seventh.
“I tried to lay everything I had out of the field,” Crossed said. “We definitely could have gotten the win; our bats just didn't come around.”
Arundel 3, Bowie 2 (9 innings)
Bowie (19-3) 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 2 3 2
Arundel (20-6) 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 3 9 0
WP Cooper Hibbs (3-3). LP Sam Garmoe. 2B: Bowie Brady Barr 2. Arundel Josh Gall, Keith Grassel, Mike Heverling. 3B: Arundel Matt Shin. RBI: Bowie Brady Barr 2. Arundel Keith Grassel, Mike Heverling, Dalton Durocher.