Work­ing ex­tra time

Rams beat Braves in 13 in­nings to claim SMAC base­ball crown

Maryland Independent - - Sports - By ANDY STATES as­tates@somd­news.com

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.”

PHOTO BY ROB WORMAN

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.

PHOTO BY ROB WORMAN

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.

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