Working extra time
Rams beat Braves in 13 innings to claim SMAC baseball crown
When Brant Butler took over pitching duties for the McDonough Rams to start the eighth inning of Tuesday night’s Southern Maryland Athletic Conference baseball championship game at Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf, there was no way to know what was in store for him.
What was, was just about a full game’s worth of work as Butler had to work six innings as the Rams’ conference-deciding encounter with the Chopticon Braves stretched well into the night before Liam Golden crossed the plate with the game-winning run in the bottom of the 13th inning. Golden’s run lifted McDonough to a 5-4 win, earning their first conference championship since 2002.
“We were just trying to get hits and I was trying to keep the runs as minimized as I could, not let anybody score,” Butler said after working six scoreless innings. “I was just relieved [when the winning run scored]. I was just pitching hard. We had runners on base and we couldn’t hit . ... I’m just excited.”
McDonough (15-3 overall), the SMAC Potomac Division champion, never
led in the game until scoring the winning run. In the seventh inning, the Rams had been down to their last strike at one point before putting together a couple of hits to tie the game and push it to extra innings.
“A lot of great plays on both sides. Either team could have won at any time,” McDonough head coach Mike Lydon said. “Neither team gave up, a lot of character. I’m very proud of my kids.
“We’ve been down before. When we played them last time [on April 19] they were beating us 2-0 and we came back to win 6-2. We’ve been down. We don’t really get started until the end. Everybody that came up made plays.”
Chopticon (15-4), which had won the SMAC Chesapeake Division title on Monday with a nine-inning win over Northern, put up a two-spot in the top of the first when Scott Cameron’s RBI triple plated Brent Sherman with the game’s first run, while Cameron later scored on a balk. An inning later, Jacob Wood’s single drove home Derek Welch to increase the Braves’ lead to 3-0.
The Rams got on the board in the third, when Golden scored on Kendrick Musser’s sacrifice fly to cut the deficit to 3-1 where the score remained until the sixth.
Trailing by two in the sixth, Musser opened up the inning’s bottom half by drawing a walk and then advanced to third on Butler’s double. A Peyton Myers’ groundout drove Musser home while Butler advanced to third. Ryan Barnett then beat out an infield single with two outs to bring Butler home to tie the game 3-3.
The Braves provided an answer in the top of the seventh. After having the potential go-ahead run cut down at the plate for the inning’s second out on a Cameron single, Charles Burroughs’ double to left ensured Chopticon did not come away empty, chasing Cameron home to lift the Braves to a 4-3 lead.
In the inning’s bottom half, Sherman, who had taken over pitching duties from Wood to start the inning, struck out the first two batters he faced. But Sean Joseph then worked a walk to provide the Rams with some life. The following at-bat, Musser singled to right on a 3-ball, 2-strike pitch to keep the Rams alive and move Joseph to third. Austin Simms followed with an RBI single to right to drive home Joseph with the tying run.
While the sailing was relatively smooth for Butler through his stint on the mound — just one Chopticon player reached base between the eighth and 12th innings — McDonough threatened in just about every inning after the seventh. The Rams left two runners on in each of the ninth, 10th and 11th.
In the top of the 13th, Gavin Tippett reached on an error and advanced to second on Trey Linassi’s sacrifice. But Tippett was thrown out at the plate on Zach Roberts’ single to left the following at-bat. Derek Welch followed with a single to keep the threat alive and give the Braves runners at the corners, but Barnett made a diving catch in right-center to rob Sherman of a hit and keep the teams tied.
Minutes later, a Chopticon error on a grounder hit by Musser allowed Golden to score the winning run to bring the marathon game to its end.
“Obviously it shows the strength of this conference throughout,” Chopticon assistant coach David Sapp said. “To win a division it takes nine innings, to win a SMAC title it takes 13. McDonough’s a great ballclub. Our guys fought the whole way. We just couldn’t seem to string it together to get a run . ... That’s the way it falls and great job by them.”
A year ago, McDonough won the Potomac Division but lost to Huntingtown in the conference championship game. On Tuesday, the Rams refused to be denied.
“I just trust my defense and I believe my team can hit,” said Austin Simms, who started on the mound and pitched the first 5 2/3 innings for the Rams. “We came out with the ‘W.’ I knew we had it from the start.”
McDonough’s baseball team celebrates after scoring the winning run in the bottom of the 13th inning of Tuesday night’s SMAC championship game at Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf. The Rams defeated Chopticon 5-4.
McDonough’s Liam Golden crosses the plate with the winning run in the bottom of the 13th inning of Tuesday night’s SMAC championship game at Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf. The Rams defeated Chopticon 5-4.