From the HCC sports desk:
CHURCHVILLE, Md.—The Harford baseball team opened competition for the 2009 season this weekend at Churchville Recreation Center, due to ongoing field improvements at its home venue. The Fighting Owls (3-1) swept Sussex County Community College in a doubleheader on Friday, with scores of 4-2 and 7-2, and split a twinbill against Mercer County Community College on Saturday, earning a 4-3 win in game one and falling 17-3 in a five-inning game two. Harford’s contest originally scheduled for Sunday at 12:00 p.m. versus Sussex was cancelled due to wintry weather in the area.
Freshman Simon Beloff (Jupiter, Fla./Jupiter/Old Dominion) led the way for the Owls on Saturday, going 3-for-6 on the day with a home run, one run scored, and four RBI, while freshman Bo Loar (Fallston, Md./Fallston) secured a 4-3 win for Harford with a walk-off two-run homer with two outs in game one.
Freshman Jon Candelaria (1-0) (Joppatowne, Md./Joppatowne) earned the first win of the weekend for Harford, after pitching 1.0 inning in relief and striking out the side, while freshman Joe Harbach (Abingdon, Md./Edgewood) notched a save as he gave up one hit and fanned one batter in the seventh.
Freshman Mike Rapazzo (1-0) (Bel Air, Md./C. Milton Wright) gave up just two runs (one earned) on three hits and struck out three in 4.0 innings of work to take the game two win and complete a Harford sweep of the Skylanders (0-2), while freshman Dustin Morgan (Berryville, Va./Clark County/Wilmington) (1-0) pitched in relief for 1.1 innings and struck out one and allowed one hit to earn the win on Sunday.
Freshman Chris Peacher (0-1) (Abingdon, Md./Harford Tech ) was tabbed with Sunday’s loss after giving up seven runs (six earned) on six hits, while striking out five and walking three batters in 3.1 innings.
Ray Zagleski led Sussex on Saturday, reaching base three times on the day with one hit and three walks and scoring one run, while Elmer Engle (0-1) and Michael Grace (0-1) were tabbed with the losses with Engle allowing two runs on three hits in 1.0 inning while striking out none and walking two. Grace struck out four in 5.0 innings of work, but gave up seven runs on six hits and walked two batters to take the game two loss.
Luis Alvarez went 4-for-6 for the Vikings (2-1) on Saturday with three RBI, one run scored and one walk, while Chris Cox was 3-for-7 with three runs scored, two homers and three RBI. Mike Alleman (1-0) picked up the win on Saturday after pitching two scoreless innings in relief, while allowing just one hit, and Ryan Krieder gave up the winning two-run homer and walked one batter in 0.2 innings to take the loss.
Freshman Willie Barnola (Barquisimeto, Venezuela/UEC J.G. Bastidas) started things off for the Owls in game one on Friday with a leadoff walk before stealing second, the first of two bags he would swipe in the game. Harbach put Barnola into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt and freshman Woody Wlodarczyk (Bel Air, Md./C. Milton Wright) would put the Owls on the board with a groundout RBI that plated Barnola.
After a scoreless second inning, Loar walked the leadoff Sussex batter in the third before a single by Edward Frias and sac bunt from Greg Case put the Skylanders into scoring position. Pat Driscoll’s groundout RBI brought Zagleski in to score before Travis Hoffman batted in Frias with a single up the middle to give Sussex a 2-1 lead.
The Owls would answer in the bottom of the inning as Barnola came to the plate with one out and reached on a Skylander error before stealing his second base. Harbach’s ensuing groundout put Barnola at third, where he scored after Beloff’s hard-hit RBI single down the first base line to knot the score at two runs apiece.
Loar retired Sussex in order in the fourth, but the Owls would strand two runners in the bottom of the inning after sophomore Ron Trout (Stewartstown, Pa./Kennard-Dale) and freshman Kyle Rooker (Coco Beach, Fla./Space Coast) reached base on a single and walk, respectively.
Freshman Paul Labe (Bel Air, Md./C. Milton Wright) entered the game in relief in the fifth and pitched a scoreless and hitless inning, but Harford was held scoreless as well, before Candelaria entered the game in relief in the sixth and struck out the side to get to the bottom of the sixth.
Freshman Mike Krider (State College, Pa./State College) started the inning off with a single to right center off Engle, who entered in relief, and after freshman Mike Maxwell’s (Salem, N.J./Woodstown) walk, sophomore Chazz Losito’s (Avon Grove Pa./Avon Grove/Wilmington) sacrifice bunt put Krider and freshman Dean Hicks (Baltimore, Md./Kenwood), who was pinch running for Maxwell, into scoring position.
Engle intentionally walked Trout to set up the potential double-play and force out at the plate and sure enough Rooker’s bunt resulted in a fielder’s choice that saw Krider thrown out at home to bring Barnola up to bat with two outs and the bases loaded. The Venezuela native added the game-winning RBI single down the left field line, which scored Hicks, before Harbach added an insurance run with an RBI single to second that plated Trout as the Owls took a 4-2 lead.
Harbach took the mound in the seventh, but quickly saw himself in a tight situation as Anthony Perretti reached base on a Harford error and Zagleski singled to put two men on for Sussex. Harbach threw Frias out at first for the first out of the inning, but now the Skylanders had runners at second and third in prime scoring position.
Harbach saw himself one out away from a Harford win and a save after fanning Case and Trout would throw Driscoll out at first for the final out that gave the Fighting Owls the 4-2 win.
Game two saw Rapazzo retire the Sussex lineup in order in the first before Barnola and Harbach reached base with a leadoff single and fielder’s choice, which saw Barnola reach second on a throwing error. The two runners advanced into scoring position on a passed ball before Wlodarczyk’s error RBI plated Barnola.
The second saw both sides retired in order, but the Skylanders would get on the board in the third thanks to a Fighting Owl error which allowed Matt Pazzato to reach base and advance to second, and a wild pitch which saw Pazzato reach third and score on the ensuing throw.
Harford answered in the bottom of the inning after Hicks singled, advanced to second on a wild pitch and then reached third after Barnola’s groundout. Harbach walked and Wlodarczyk’s groundout put runners at second and third, who Beloff brought home with a two-RBI single up the middle that gave Harford a 3-1 lead.
Sussex cut the lead to one after an RBI single by Peretti in the fourth, but a two-run shot by Hicks down the left field line would see Harford take a three-run lead, 5-2. The homer would be the first of three for the Owls, as Beloff and freshman Drew Burton (Kingsville, Md./Calvert Hall) would tack on back-to-back solo homers in the bottom of the fifth to give Harford a 7-2 advantage.
Freshmen Brian Heilig (Lykens, Pa./Upper Dauphin), who pitched a scoreless inning in the fifth, and Brian Bosley (Abingdon, Md./Edgewood) combined to shut down the Sussex offense in the sixth and, after a scoreless sixth for Harford, Bosley would give up just one hit in a scoreless seventh to give Harford the 7-2 win.
Saturday saw Harford take an early, 2-0, lead thanks a two-run home run to center by Harbach in the bottom of the first and Beloff, the game won starter would only allow one hit in four innings before giving up three, including a two-run homer by Gary Carmona, in the fifth that knotted the score at two.
Freshman Corey Grossman (Dundalk, Md./Kenwood) entered the game in relief in the sixth and gave up the Vikings’ second home run of the day, this time a solo shot by Christian Cox, which put Mercer up, 3-2 before Morgan got the Owls out of the inning.
Anthony Gambino pitched a scoreless inning in relief for the Vikings in the sixth and Morgan did the same for Harford in the seventh.
Krieder looked poised to earn the save for Mercer after retiring the first two batters of the Owl lineup in the bottom of the seventh, but walked freshman Kyle Otstot (Lewisberry, Pa./Redland), who was pinch hitting for Maxwell to put the winning run at the plate in Loar, who pinch hit for Rooker. In his first plate appearance of the season, and as a pinch hitter, Loar crushed a ball over the center field fence for a walk-off two-run homer that gave Harford the 4-3 win.
Mercer rebounded quickly from the loss in game two, as Cox homered off Peacher in the first to take a 1-0 lead. The Owls wouldn’t answer until the bottom of the second when Otstot reached on a hit by pitch, but was caught in a rundown before Maxwell walked. Losito doubled to right to put Maxwell in scoring position and Trout’s fielder’s choice RBI plated Maxwell and knotted the score at one run each.
Peacher’s troubles would begin in the third as he walked the first two Mercer batters and allowed four runs on Steve Giambrone’s RBI double, John DeGroodt’s RBI single and Carmona’s RBI double as the Vikings took a 5-1 lead.
The Owls would cut the lead to two in the bottom of the inning thanks to Krider’s two-out, two-run homer, but a seven-run inning which saw three different Harford pitchers would give the Vikings a substantial, 12-3 lead. The Vikings would combine for six hits, all singles, and bat around the order in the fourth before Alleman retired Harford’s lineup in order to set up a five-run fifth inning.
Freshman Seth Blackiston (Bel Air, Md./C. Milton Wright) who entered in relief and notched the final out of the fourth gave up one run (unearned) on two hits in the fifth before freshman Ryan Schaeffer (Jonestown, Pa./Northern Lebanon) relieved him and inherited two runners. Schaeffer allowed both inherited runners to cross the plate (one unearned) and gave up two unearned runs of his own as the Vikings took an insurmountable, 17-3 lead.
Harford saw itself down fourteen and forced to score five runs in order to keep the game alive when it came to bat in the fifth. Hicks started things off with a bunt single to third, but Harbach hit into a 3-6 double play before Burton grounded out to short as Mercer earned the 17-3 truncated win, by virtue of the 10-run mercy rule.
The Fighting Owls return to action next weekend when they travel to Bolivia, S.C. for a spring training trip and two doubleheaders versus Brunswick, beginning with a 12:00 p.m. game on Saturday, March 7.