Swarmin’ Hor­nets pre­vail in ‘dog­fight’

DA­M­AS­CUS 16, WALTER JOHN­SON 14

The Washington Post Sunday - - NCAA TOURNAMENT - BY JOSHUA NEEDELMAN joshua.needelman@wash­post.com

Cov­ered cap to cleats in in­field dirt, Da­m­as­cus ju­nior Mitchell Kline thought back to the six runs he scored Satur­day and tried to pick out his fa­vorite. He came up with two.

“Prob­a­bly the two that were re­ally close at home that I had to dive around to the cor­ner of the bag, swipe it with my hand,” Kline said after the Swarmin’ Hor­nets’ 16-14 vic­tory at Walter John­son.

The con­test tilted back and forth over the three-plus hours, with both teams tak­ing ad­van­tage of sloppy play.

It was just one of “those” games, Da­m­as­cus Coach Greg Blake said.

“I feel like WJ coaches would feel the same way,” Blake said. “It was one of those games that ended up be­ing a foot­ball score.”

In the open­ing in­nings, it seemed as if Da­m­as­cus (2-1, 2-1 Mont­gomery County), which was com­ing off a 7-5 loss to Quince Or­chard, had put Walter John­son (1-2, 1-2) in an in­sur­mount­able hole.

The Swarmin’ Hor­nets were reg­u­lars on the base paths in the first three frames. Kline led off the game with a sin­gle, moved to sec­ond on a wild pitch and then scored on a sin­gle off the bat of se­nior Eric Lansinger, a UNC Char­lotte signee.

It was just the be­gin­ning, as Da­m­as­cus took an 8-1 lead into the bot­tom of the third.

That’s when the fun started. The Wild­cats tacked on two in the bot­tom of the frame, then in the fourth, with Lansinger on the mound, be­gan to turn the ta­bles.

“It was a rough out­ing for me,” Lansinger. “I lost it in my head a lit­tle bit. I wasn’t re­ally in it men­tally.”

A pair of sin­gles put run­ners on the bases, and then one run­ner came around to score when Lansinger was called for a balk.

“I’m not go­ing to com­ment on the balk call,” he said. “Per­son­ally, I don’t think I balked, but, um­pire’s dis­cre­tion, that’s his call.”

The next bat­ter worked the count to 3-0, at which point sopho­more catcher Mark Kline be­gan to ap­proach the mound. Lansinger raised an open hand, mo­tion­ing for him to re­turn.

The next pitch was a ball.

Be­fore the in­ning was over, Walter John­son had taken a 10-8 lead thanks to messy play from the Swarmin’ Hor­nets. The fi­nal three in­nings played out in sim­i­lar fash­ion, with the lead chang­ing hands two more times be­fore Da­m­as­cus claimed a 14-13 ad­van­tage in the sixth.

Two more runs in the top of the sev­enth gave the Swarmin’ Hor­nets a cush­ion that, for once, proved too much to over­come. The fi­nal two Wild­cats bat­ters struck out, the for­mer look­ing and the lat­ter swing­ing.

Blake doesn’t have any bold plans to shore up his team’s de­fense or his pitcher’s ac­cu­racy. Satur­day’s game was an anom­aly, one the Wild­cats were ec­static to walk away from with a win.

“It was a dog­fight,” Lansinger said.

JONATHAN NEW­TON/THE WASH­ING­TON POST

Walter John­son’s Jack Hef­fer­nan pitches dur­ing a game “that ended up be­ing a foot­ball score,” ac­cord­ing to Da­m­as­cus Coach Greg Blake.

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