One bad inning foils the Mustangs in a 5-3 loss to James M. Bennett

by Gary Adornato

A one-out error in the bottom of the fourth inning opened the door to a four-run uprising by James M. Bennett and the Clippers, who hail from Salisbury, rode that opening to a 5-3 win over C. Milton Wright in the 3A Baseball State Championship Game, Saturday night at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen.

The loss ended an outstanding late-season push by the Mustangs (13-10) which included five straight wins, including a second round upset of UCBAC rival Bel Air and a thrilling 4-2 win over Northern-Calvert in the state semifinals.

Wright starter M.J. Cummings zipped through the first three innings, allowing just a pair of singles. Bennett’s Ryan Mitchell started the fourth inning rally when his ground ball to third eluded Christian Vinyard for an error. Brett Swift followed with a walk and Anders Brown singled to right to load the bases.

Colby Daily then worked Cummings for a walk and an RBI, for the game’s first run. A wild pitch allowed Swift to score the second run and then Hunter White singled home the third run. Max Scruti was brought on to pitch at that point and he allowed another bases loaded walk which made it 4-0, before getting out of the inning.

First year C. Milton Wright head coach Matt Amaral said there is little room for margin in this type of game.

“Seventy-five percent of high school games a team will score enough runs in one inning to win the game,” said Amaral. “We tried to stop the bleeding and give ourselves an opportunity to win the game.”

In the top of the fifth, Eric Brettschneider led-off for the Mustangs and was hit by a pitch. Nick Kopczynski followed with an infield single, before Brettschneider was forced at third on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Jake Spurlock. Dominic Jankovich was up next and singled home CMW’s first run. Hunter Wright grounded out to second, but he did drive home Spurlock with the second run. Zach Stiars then followed with an RBI single to get Wright within one at 4-3.

Two more CMW errors allowed Bennett (16-4) to score a big insurance run in the bottom of the sixth, without benefit of base hit. Vinyard was hit by a pitch to start the Mustang seventh and he advanced to third on a couple of infield groundouts, but Bennett closer Sammy Back was able to strike out Kopczynsi to end the game.

Spurlock, a senior who led CMW with a .449 average heading into the championship game, said the defensive lapses were not typical of this team.

“We played good defensively this whole year and then this game,” said Spurlock. “Big arena, I guess nerves help a little too. Can’t do anything about it.”

Spurlock, however, expressed great pride in his team.

“This is a great team,” he added. “We haven’t been back here since the last time we won it, in 2010. I love these boys, hard working men. We got hot at the perfect time and just went with it.

“I loved it. I couldn’t have asked for a better ending than playing here. I didn’t think I’d be here this year at all, but we came back and got hot.”

Amaral expressed similar sentiments.

“When you’ve got to win six games, it’s tough,” added Amaral. “I’m just so proud of these guys. I told the seniors, you can say you played your last baseball game at Ripken. There is a hundred other schools that can’t say that, so nobody can take that away from you.

“We started clicking and everything we told them, they started to believe it. We have a really young team and its hard to get them to buy in to some of those things, but they started believing it. They battled back. They didn’t go down lying down. We’ll be back. That’s the motto now.”

(at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen)
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MJ Cummings, Max Scruti (4) and Nick Kopczynski; Aaron Combs, Sammy Baek and Paul Oscar
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