On a day in which it was technically the home team while playing against an opponent that was hosting the contest, the Patuxent High School baseball team remained undefeated on the season when it edged Chopticon High 3-2 to capture the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference Championship on Tuesday afternoon in Morganza.
Patuxent (20-0) used three different pitchers on Tuesday afternoon and the Panthers would benefit from all of them as the trio failed to yield an earned run in seven innings. Patuxent had actually drawn first blood in the home half of the first on the Braves’ field, yielded the advantage in the third then reclaimed it for good in the bottom of the fourth.
Patuxent starter Jeff Delair departed after allowing two unearned runs in two and two-thirds innings, then reliever Brady Powell would eventually garner the win while tossing two scoreless innings. But it was closer Ryan Moran who would garner the save, his fifth of the season, by blanking the Braves over the last 2 innings and recording an assist for the final out on a designed trick play that had failed to work during the league schedule.
“We had tried that play five or six times during the regular season and it never worked,” said Powell, who is headed to George Mason University this fall for baseball. “Ryan turned and fell and made a great fake to me at second then he got up and threw the ball to Jeff at third for the out. I still can’t believe it worked. It had not worked all year.”
Patuxent leadoff batter Cam Bott worked Chopticon starter Allen Miller for a walk to open the first then Powell doubled to left center. After Delair fanned, Kaleb Elliott plated Bott with a sac bunt that also advanced Powell to third. But Miller escaped further harm by retiring Chase on a grounder to second. Miller would eventually get handed the loss although the Braves gave him a lead briefly.
In the top of the third, Chopticon (15-3) got two unearned runs against Delair in an uncharacteristically sloppy inning for the Panthers. Two Braves reached on fielding errors and well after the inning should have expired, Davey Reynolds worked Delair for a bases loaded walk then Colton Eyester collected an RBI when he was plunked on the batting helmet by a 2-2 pitch.
Patuxent reclaimed the lead for good in the home half of the fourth on a genuine two-out rally sparked by the Panthers’ bottom of the order. Moran reached on a bloop single to right then George Libby worked Miller for a walk. Patuxent junior Asa Locks then smacked a two-out, two-strike, two-run double into the gap in right center that gave the Panthers a 3-2 lead.
“I was just looking for something that I could drive,” Locks said. “When I hit it, I thought it was going out. It’s nice to be SMAC champions, but we really want to win regions and states.”
Chopticon chased Powell with two outs in the fifth on a bloop single to left by Reynolds, but Moran promptly fanned Eyester to end the frame. Alvey then led off the sixth with a double to center, but he was eventually picked off second when Steven Guy was unable to get a bunt down. Andrew Peed worked Moran for a walk in the seventh and Miller was hit by a pitch. But neither runner advanced as Delair recorded the last two put-outs at third.
“It was game where both teams had good scoring chances,” said Chopticon assistant coach David Sapp. “We had the bases loaded and no outs in the third and only come away with two runs on a walk and a hit-by-pitch. There was really not one play where you can say the game was won or lost today. It was just a good, close game between two good teams.”