CHESAPEAKE CITY — Friday night, July 12, the defending state champs showed why they were by winning the title once more.
The Caroline County Senior League baseball all-star team, comprised of players from Colonel Richardson, North Caroline, and Queen Anne’s County High Schools, held off a last-minute rally by Rising Sun in an 8-7 championship-game win.
The victory puts the re-christened Team Maryland (7-0) in the Senior Eastern Regional. The team’s first regional game is set for 11 a.m. July 18 against Team Massachusetts, at Mansfield Stadium in Bangor, Maine.
“Those guys are crushing the ball,” said Jerry Stewart, who coaches the team along with Warren White and Mike Willoughby. “They’ve just been hitting the ball so well.
“They put up a six-run first inning against them (Rising Sun) the first time we faced them,” Stewart added, “and here we did it again.”
On July 7, when Caroline and Rising Run, this year’s District 5 champs, played for the first time, Caroline opened big, scoring six times in the top of the first and eventually winning 8-6.
Kyler Boyd, who finished the state tournament hitting .529 (9 for 17) in the leadoff position, got things started for Caroline on Friday with a triple on the first pitch from Rising Sun starting hurler Hayden Spioch.
A Tanner Young single scored Boyd to make it 1-0; walks to P.J. Gunther, and then Jayden Watkins, loaded the bases. A pitch then hit Will Turner, forcing in Young to put Caroline ahead 2-0.
Chris Curler, up next, grounded back to Spioch, who fired home for a forceout to retire Gunther. Rising Sun catcher Yogi England then threw to first, completing a double play.
Watkins scored on the twinkill, and Sowers, trying to catch Turner at third, overthrew the bag. Turner scored on the miscue to make it 4-0.
Adam Boyles and then Chad Willoughby singled moments later, and they eventually came home on a Jeremy Bedford single, then a double by Boyd to cap the rally at 6-0.
Unlike in the teams’ first battle, in which Rising Sun didn’t score until the fifth, the tournament host got on the board in reply mere moments after Caroline’s six-spot.
Sowers drove in a run with a base hit, and then Jon Valentine’s double-play grounder made it 6-2 in the bottom of the first.
Caroline got the runs right back, though.
Gunther led off the visitors’ half of the second with a walk, then stole second, and scored one pitch later on a Watkins single. Watkins also swiped a base, and came in one out after that thanks to a dropped third strike, which put Turner at first. Caroline stranded two men that inning, but rebuilt its six-run lead.
Rising Sun wasn’t done, though, and scored twice in the third and one more run in the bottom of the fourth to make it a game again, at 8-5.
Neither team scored in the fifth or sixth, Curler, on in relief of Boyd in the last three innings, and Ethan Gullion, who finished the first and lasted until the top of the seventh, dueled until the final moments.
Rising Sun put together one last rally in the home half of the seventh.
With two outs and nobody on base, Willie Jackson singled. An error at first on a dropped pop-up allowed Jackson to make third, while batter Lane Wiesmiller reached second, bringing the possible tying run to the plate in the form of Matthew Trout.
Trout got two-thirds of the job done, lining a single to right field that scored both runners and made it 8-7.
But Curler had the last say, getting Gullion out on a fly ball to Gunther in center field, ending the affair and instantly starting a celebration by the District 6 squad and its fans.
“Three state championships in under 365 days,” said Turner, who was on the 2018 state Senior League champs who won the title last July, and an infielder for the Colonel Richardson High team which won the state Class 1A public-school title on May 25. “Other than the fact that it is almost completely surreal, I don’t really know how to explain the feeling.
“It’s almost as if people start to look up to you, when you represent yourself and where you come from, in such a great way,” Turner added. “I can’t wait to tell my kids sometime, way in the future,, about what I’ve done this last year. Although it does feel great, we (have) a lot more to accomplish at the next level. ... I couldn’t be any more proud of my team, my coaches, and myself for what we have accomplished.”
Boyd picked up the win on the hill for Caroline, Curler earning a rare, three-inning save.
“I’m really proud of these boys,” Stewart said. “You know, it’s special to be able to coach a team to a state championship. To repeat is really special.”
This year’s title is the fourth Stewart and Warren have collected coaching Caroline’s senior league baseball teams: they also won the 2009 and 2011 titles in addition to last year’s title, won in Brunswick last July.
The regional tournament is a double-elimination event; the winner advances to the 2019 Senior League World Series, in Easley, S. C. beginning July 27.
Notes: Caroline batters were hit by 11 pitches during their four-game state tournament showing. ... The team hit .310 with an on-base average of .470, drawing 25 walks in 151 plate appearances, spanning 26 innings of play... The last Mid-Shore team to win the East was Talbot, which did so in 2011; Talbot was also the first Maryland team to win a regional title in Senior League baseball, which involves players of ages 14-16. Talbot went 2-2 in pool play in the World Series that year, which was held in Bangor as well. ... When Little League International dropped Big League baseball and softball (which covered ages 16-18) following the 2016 season, the venue for the Senior Baseball World Series was changed to Easley, S. C., the former site of the Big League Baseball World Series.
8-10 LITTLE LEAGUE SOFTBALL
HURLOCK — The District 6 champ from Tri City, playing in the fourth and final opening-day tournament game Saturday, took on District 5 champ North East. North East, which had played in a game earlier that day, beat District 7 to advance.
District 6 won in four innings, guided by nine strikeouts and a complete game from pitcher Koryn Otey. Emily Boyle powered the winning offense with a 3 for 3 day at the plate; teammate Kinsley Peters added a base hit for Tri City.
In other games District 8 defeated District 2, 13-0, and District 8 champ Delmar routed District 1, 19-0.
Tri City faces Delmar today at 5:30 p.m. in the win-bracket final.
8-10 LITTLE LEAGUE BASEBALL
District 1 1, District 6 0
BALTIMORE — Despite 5 2/3 innings of two-hit shutout ball by Ben Bohlman, the District 6 champs from Homerun Baker Little League could not push a run across. The game went extra innings, with District 1 scoring a run in the first bonus frame to win.
District 6 plays in an elimination game at 11:30 a.m. today in South Baltimore against District 5 champ Elkton, which lost to District 2, 7-0, Saturday afternoon.
AMERICAN LEGION BASEBALL
Caroline 10, Talbot 0
AMERICAN CORNER — Ahead 4-0 in the bottom of the sixth, Post 29 made it into a rout-rule win with a six-run inning.
Tyler Stanley pitched a shutout as Post 29 improved to 7-4 overall, 3-3 Eastern Shore District North Division. Now locked in as the No. 2 seed, Caroline plays its final regular-season game Tuesday at 6 p.m. against Queen Anne’s/Kent Posts 18/36, and then begins divisional playoffs Thursday at 6 p.m. in Easton against top seed Talbot Post 70, in a best-of-three set. The winner reaches the state tournament, July 29 at 10 a.m. in Cumberland.