No. 17 Patriots stun South River, 2-0, in 4A East baseball title game
by Pat O’Malley
After a 5-8 start, Old Mill was pretty much outta here in this year’s high school baseball season, but after their 10th consecutive victory, a 2-0 upset of South River in Edgewater on Friday afternoon, the Patriots are in here big time.
Old Mill advanced to the 4A Final Four for the first time in 16 years in front of a big crowd at Kevin Morris Field on a sunny, near perfect day for baseball in a well-played contest that was played in just one hour and 25 minutes.
VSN’S No. 17 squad, which started the season in the Top 20 and just got back in as result of their playoff run, claimed the Class 4A East Region title as right-hander Hunter McKean prevailed over southpaw Kavi Caster in a battle of four-hitters to stun the 2019 Anne Arundel County champion and No. 5 ranked Seahawks (16-7).
By winning the 10th Region title in school history, the Patriots (15-8) advance to the State Semis for the first time since 2003 and will play Bethesda’s Walt Whitman, the 4A West winner by 6-2 over Clarksburg of Montgomery County, on Tuesday (May 21) at Shirley Povich Field in Bethesda.
The other 4A semifinal at Povich pits Sherwood, the North winner by 1-0 over VSN’S No. 3 Dulaney (21-2), vs. Eleanor Roosevelt, a 4-2 victor over CH Flowers.
Old Mill has won three state championships in baseball, the last in 2003 when they copped their ninth region crown. Their opponent, Whitman from Montgomery County, will be making its first ever appearance in the State Final Four and playing at Povich is like a home game for the Vikings.
This past week the Patriots traveled to No. 7 Severna Park (16-6), the two-time defending 4A East Region champion, on Wednesday, and shocked the Falcons, 6-2, to advance to the region final at South River. A struggling Old Mill won at home by 3-1 over South River on April 17 as McKean bested Caster before the Pats embarked on their winning skein.
Coach Charlie Chaffin credits the turnaround and winning streak to the return of senior second baseman and catalyst Nick Cinquanto who was hit by a pitch in his face and suffered a broken cheekbone and orbital bone in his very first at bat of the season.
“We didn’t know if Nick was going to be back this season or not,” said Chaffin. “I underestimated probably how much losing him effected the team. When he came back it kinda picked us up. There has been a growing sense of trust and that’s something we pushed on the team for three years now.
“I have never been on the field for an injury like that (Cinquanto). I had real concern. I didn’t expect him to see out the season though. His injury and the McDonogh game (9-8 loss at the MIAA A Conference playoff team in 10 innings) was the game we walked away from that and said we can play with anybody.”
McDonogh was the last loss, on April 22nd, that the Patriots have had this season.
“We started realizing that we had a chance to play for something, like the states,” said Cinquanto, who will play college ball at D-II St. Thomas Aquinas University in New York. “We just kept fighting and pushing through.”
The return of Cinquanto coupled with outstanding starting pitching from seniors Kyle Summers, who notched the win over Severna Park, and McKean has fueled the incredible run by the Patriots. The players agreed with the coach that Cinquanto coming back was a big key.
“We all thought he was out for the year, had surgery and when he came back halfway through the year that really got us going and we really got hot,” said senior catcher-leader Hunter Parish. “We trust each other, know each other is going to practice hard and play hard all the time.”
McKean, a stocky hurler, shutdown South River that day and got the call Friday and bested Caster again as each went in with a 5-1 record. Each pitcher gave up just four hits with McKean striking out two and not walking a batter on just 81 pitches and Caster fanning three and walking one on only 83 pitches.
A main factor was that Caster’s walk to Xander Waddell in the first inning turned into a run when Cinquanto doubled off the center-field fence. Old Mill got to Caster for another run in the top of the sixth when Ian Adams doubled to left with one out and after a second out was sent home on a two-bagger by Parish.
Few teams have two players first named Hunter as Old Mill does and Hunter to Hunter is really rare, but certainly pretty good.
“We’ve been clicking together all season and he (McKean) established his fast ball early in the game and had a lot of command,” said Parish. “That allowed him to work his off-speed pitches, his curve ball and change-up.”
McKean survived Seahawk threats in the second and fifth innings as the Hawks left two men on base in each stanza and had three shots ripped right at Cinquanto in a 1-2-3 fourth inning. Cinquanto fielded Caster’s hard hit ground ball like a pro leading off the frame and Keaton Goetzger and Cael Huyer lined lasers at Cinquanto.
“My team has definitely fielded well behind me all season,” said McKean, who was 3-2 in 2018 and has four complete games this year. “The adversity early in the season might have actually helped us, rather than defeated us.”
The Patriots defense also recorded double-plays in each of the sixth and seventh innings, the second one 5-4-3 was the game ender.
Pictured above: Old Mill winning pitcher Hunter McKean, now 6-1, tossed a 4-hit shutout against No. 5 South River, using just 81 pitches walking no one.
CLASS 4A BASEBALL EAST REGION FINAL
NO. 17 OLD MILL 2, NO. 5 SOUTH RIVER 0
Old Mill (15-8) 100 001 0 — 2 4 2
South River (16-7) 000 000 0 — 0 4 1
Hunter McKean and Hunter Parish; Kavi Caster and Keaton Goetzger
2B: OM-Nick Cinquanto, Ian Adams, Hunter Parish; SR-Kevin Sieber.
WP – McKean (6-1) SR – Caster (5-2)