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Defensive gem lifts Severna Park in to win in Sectional final


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Third-ranked Falcons move within one win of 4A state semifinals
Ryan Key and Pat SullivanSeverna Park seniors Patrick Sullivan and Ryan Key combined to make arguably the biggest defensive play of the season, while their team’s No. 9 hitter, junior Drew Jefferies, continued his uncanny clutch hitting, Tuesday, to lead the Falcons to a 2-0 victory over Arundel in the 4A East Section I baseball final, at Joe Cannon Stadium in Harmans.

Junior right-hander Cameron Clark also gave an encore of his performance in the Anne Arundel County Championship, part of three main factors which were the difference in one of the best high school baseball pitcher’s duals you will see. The top-seeded and VSN No. 3 ranked Falcons (21-2) advanced to the 4A East Region championship game on Friday. As likely the only Sectional champion in the state public school tournament without an actual home field, the Falcons will once again play at their home away from home, Joe Cannon Stadium against North Point of Charles County, an 8-4 winner over Chopticon for the Section II title.

Severna Park is just one win away from advancing to the 4A Final four where anything can happen – like a state championship. The Falcons are closing down a banner season with 21 wins going into Friday despite no home diamond at their school site because of the final stages of the construction of their new state of the art high school.

The players have responded very well to the adverse situation and the Eric Milton-led coaching staff are a credit to the school.

“Our kids have gone out and done what had to be done and we are one win from the state semis,” said a smiling Milton.

Tuesday the Falcons responded to the intense pressure of such a big game as the Sectional final by making all the big plays, especially as the end neared.

Clark, who gave up only three hits (coming from one out in the fifth until the end), struck out seven and walked only one on 92 pitches, matched the Wildcats’ junior right-hander Will Schubert through five scoreless innings. Schubert gave up four hits, three of those hits coming in the Falcons’ two-run sixth that decided the game.

The Wildcats (16-6) were retired 10 in a row by Clark to start the game before Gary Stanard reached on an error and Clark issued his only walk to cleanup batter and catcher Matt Moon before getting out of the inning unscathed.

On May 9 Clark went five scoreless innings to lead a 3-2 victory over Chesapeake in the Anne Arundel County Championship game also at Cannon. He looked like the same pitcher against Arundel – intense and focused on winning.

With one out in the fifth against Arundel, Clark yielded back-to-back singles to Mike Smell and Keegan O’Donnell. O’Donnell’s liner to centerfield set off a wild 8-9-3-2 out at home that reved up the fans.

Jefferies nearly made a diving catch coming in, but the ball caromed off him over to Jake Hallet racing from over in right with Smell heading for home as third base coach Frank Hood windmilled the green light. Hallet fired the ball to Sullivan the cutoff man in the infield grass.

“It was just a reaction on my part as I shifted from toward first base toward home to Ryan (Key, catcher),” said Sullivan, a slick fielding first sacker.

Key caught Sullivan’s desperate heave up the first base line and dove toward the plate as Smell came diving in. Key barely tagged Smell for the big out.

“It was our biggest defensive play of the year,” said Key while coach Milton agreed saying, “It was as good as it gets.”

Sullivan added that “It was a momentum shift.”

In well-pitched games such as there was Tuesday at Cannon, that first run scored can propel the team scoring it to victory. It sure fired up the Falcons who launched three fly ball outs in the fifth before breaking through in the sixth.

Schubert, who only struck out one batter in his 72 pitches in six innings, retired the first 10 Falcons he faced before George Lesher singled to left in the fourth. A 6-4-3 double-play erased Lesher to end the inning and Schubert got the Falcons 1-2-3 in the fifth before the fateful sixth.

Key led off the bottom of the sixth with a single to center and his courtesy runner Sam Barranco was moved to second on Sullivan’s sac-bunt. Up to the plate came 9th-hitter Jefferies, who is known for his gold glove in center but over the last couple weeks has  been Mr. Clutch.

Coming down the stretch, Jefferies had a decisive three-run homer at Northeast as the Falcons avoided a colossal upset at the hands of the Eagles, who won only two games this season. The next day at No. 4 ranked and Class 3A Chesapeake, another Jefferies’ dinger, this one a solo job, tied the Cougars at two in the seventh and the Falcons won it 3-2 in the 8th to complete a two-game season sweep of the Cougars.

Against Arundel, Jefferies broke up the scoreless deadlock with a triple over the head of speedy center-fielder Matt McKisson to score Barranco. Jefferies later scored on a double by George Lesher.

Clark got the first two Wildcats in the top of the seventh before having to escape a serious threat by the Wildcats, who put runners on second and third on Matt Hagemann’s infield hit and Smell’s ground ball that led to a throwing error. Clark went 1-and-2 on the last batter who he got on a come-backer to end it.

“It felt really good because they are a really good team and gave us one of our two losses (by 8-2) this season,” said Clark.

CLASS 4A EAST SECTION I FINAL
NO. 3 SEVERNA PARK 2, NO. 11 ARUNDEL 0

Arundel (16-6)            000   000   0   -   0   3   0
Severna Park (21-2)   000   002   X   -   2   4   2

WP – Cameron Clark (SP)
LP – Will Schubert (A)
2B: SP – George Lesher
3B: SP – Drew Jefferies.

Last Updated (Wednesday, 17 May 2017 00:05)

 
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