’Jacks seeded sec­ond be­hind pow­er­house Owls

Record Observer - - Sports - By RICHARD MIDCAP

Ch­e­sa­peake 6 — Mont­gomery 1 Ch­e­sa­peake 6 — Mont­gomery 0

ROCKVILLE — Ch­e­sa­peake Col­lege prepped for the up­com­ing NJCAA Di­vi­sion II Re­gion XX base­ball tour­na­ment Satur­day af­ter­noon by sweep­ing Mont­gomery Col­lege, 6-1 and 6-0.

Ed­die Nevins (3 for 3, two runs, two RBIs) hit two homers, and three other Skip­jacks had two hits apiece in the opener as Trevor Gill (4-4) threw a four-hit­ter with seven strike­outs. Kasey Gast (4-3) tossed a four-hit shutout in the night­cap backed by a two-run homer from Cay­den Stover and solo blasts by Tyler Galazin and Matt Wo­j­ciechowski.

“We’ve been play­ing well lately,” Ch­e­sa­peake head coach Frank Szy­man­ski said. “The team has been fo­cused and locked in. They’ve re­ally grown a lot over the last 52 games and it’s start­ing to pay off for us.”

The sweep al­lowed the Skip­jacks (3220 over­all, 16-10 league) to take a three­game win­ning streak into this week­end’s re­gional tour­na­ment, which Ch­e­sa­peake hosts. The Skip­jacks are seeded sec­ond be­hind Mary­land Ju­nior Col­lege Ath­letic Con­fer­ence cham­pion Har­ford (45-9, 251), which went a per­fect 6-0 in re­gional play.

Ch­e­sa­peake pro­vided Har­ford with its tough­est re­gional con­test, drop­ping a 3-2 de­ci­sion in the sec­ond game of a dou­ble­header af­ter the Owls posted a dom­i­nat­ing 17-0 win in the opener.

“Any time we get the com­bi­na­tion of good pitch­ing, ex­cel­lent de­fense and timely hit­ting, we’re pretty com­pet­i­tive,” Szy­man­ski said. “That was how we played the sec­ond game against Har­ford. We had mul­ti­ple chances to tie or take the lead in that con­test and we just couldn’t get the big hit.”

Jake Shel­len­berger (2 for 4) put the Rap­tors (27-14, 15-7) in an early Game 1 hole with a run-scor­ing sin­gle in the first. Nevins cracked a third-in­ning homer off los­ing pitcher Harry Thomas (10-1) that staked the Skip­jacks to a 2-0 lead.

Af­ter Stover’s RBI sin­gle in the fourth made it 3-0, the Rap­tors scored their only run of the day in the bot­tom half of the in­ning. Nick Gard­ner (2 for 4) de­liv­ered a fifth-in­ning dou­ble to plate A.J. Robin­son to get that run back, mak­ing it 4-1.

Nevins hit his sec­ond homer of the game as part of a two-run sev­enth that fi­nal­ized the score.

“We were re­ally fo­cused on get­ting a pitch we could drive,” Szy­man­ski said. “Our hit­ters were re­silient — foul­ing balls off and hav­ing qual­ity at-bats. When we got good pitches, we did some­thing with them.”

Wo­j­ciechowski broke up a score­less Game 2 with his fourth-in­ning homer off Mont­gomery’s Matt Durkin. Galazin started a two-run fifth with his two-out homer off Durkin, who was re­placed af­ter he sand­wiched two walks around a Robin­son sin­gle to load the bases.

Re­liever Ed­die O’Neill then walked Wo­j­ciechowski to force in an­other run for a 3-0 Ch­e­sa­peake lead.

Stover hit his two-run shot and Robin­son dou­bled in a sixth-in­ning run to fin­ish the Game 2 scor­ing.

Galazin (two runs) went 3 for 3 while Wo­j­ciechowski (two RBIs), Robin­son and Co­hen Kerns (run) each added two hits. Gast walked three and struck out three in the com­plete-game ef­fort.

The Skip­jacks can now turn their at­ten­tion to the re­gional tour­na­ment, which they open Fri­day with a 10 a.m. win­ners’ bracket semi­fi­nal against third-seeded Po­tomac State Col­lege of West Vir­ginia Univer­sity (26-20). The teams were each 3-3 in the re­gion and split a pair of games against one an­other, but Ch­e­sa­peake earned the higher seed by virtue of a bet­ter over­all record against all Di­vi­sion I op­po­nents.

“They’re a qual­ity club,” Szy­man­ski said of the Cata­mounts. “We like our chances be­cause we have a lot of com­pet­i­tive play­ers that work hard. We’re go­ing to go out there and give it our best ef­fort.”

Har­ford plays fourth-seeded Hager­stown (32-20 over­all, 0-6 re­gion) in Fri­day’s other win­ners’ bracket semi­fi­nal at 1 p.m.

Ch­e­sa­peake is fresh off a reg­u­lar sea­son in which it was third in the con­fer­ence in runs scored at nearly 7.4 per game. Nevins, who spent most of the sea­son threat­en­ing to win a con­fer­ence triple crown, high­lights a bal­anced of­fen­sive at­tack and is cur­rently among the league lead­ers in hit­ting (third at .437), home runs (fourth at 13), RBIs (sec­ond at 63), and stolen bases (tied for sev­enth at 19).

Galazin has been an­other crit­i­cal cog in the of­fense. He is hit­ting .391 with six homers, 33 RBIs, a team-best 59 runs scored and a sec­ond-in-the-state 26 stolen bases. Stover (.376, two homers, 28 RBIs, team-high 19 dou­bles), Robin­son (.364 av­er­age, 26 RBIs), Seth Wil­liams (.331 av­er­age, 32 RBIs), and Devynn Han­cock (.326 av­er­age, 21 RBIs) have been other key of­fen­sive pro­duc­ers.

“We have a com­bi­na­tion of guys who hit for power and av­er­age and who can run,” Szy­man­ski said of the team’s of­fen­sive bal­ance.

Ch­e­sa­peake hasn’t just hit well this sea­son. The Skip­jacks have also pitched well, cur­rently boast­ing the third-best earne­drun av­er­age (4.60), the fifth-best strike­out to­tal (269), and the fourth-fewest to­tal runs al­lowed (245) in the league.

Brian Trib­bett (6-1, 2.31 ERA), Ty Michaud (6-2, 4.28), Kyle Rauben­s­tine (4-3, 2.57), Gast (4-3, 4.47), and Gill (4-4, 5.59) each won at least four games while 10 pitch­ers had at least one vic­tory. Rauben­s­tine led the team with five com­plete games and 53 strike­outs.

“Our pitch­ing staff has given us a chance to win in about 90 per­cent of the games we’ve played,” Szy­man­ski said. “For them to be that con­sis­tent has re­ally been ben­e­fi­cial to our ball­club.”

Af­ter Fri­day’s two win­ners’ bracket semi­fi­nals, the two losers will play a 4 p.m. elim­i­na­tion game in the losers’ bracket. The two win­ners face off in Satur­day’s 11 a.m. win­ners’ bracket fi­nal, with the losers’ bracket fi­nal to fol­low.

The ti­tle game and “if” game, if nec­es­sary, will be played on Sun­day.

Fol­low me on Twit­ter @Bil­l_Haufe. Email me at bhaufe@star­dem.com

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