Bruins best Howard County power River Hill in a battle of unbeaten Top 10 teams

by Pat O’Malley

Sean Murphy was in charge on the bump while Mick Stergiou had the clutch hit and Devin McGowan scarfed up a freebie to lead No. 2 and host Broadneck to a 4-1 victory over No. 6 River Hill in Cape St. Claire on Monday afternoon. The contest was a matchup of two unbeaten teams as Anne Arundel County’s leader and only undefeated team, Broadneck (8-0), faced Howard County’s best in River Hill (7-1).

“Our team chemistry is really good and I think it is because we are back in school this year,” said Murphy. “Last year we weren’t the team we are now because of all the COVID regulations and all. We’re together in school and on the field and it’s paying off for us.”

The two teams will not meet in the playoffs, but each look like State Champion contenders in their respective classifications, Broadneck in Class 4A and River Hill in 3A. The game turned into a pitcher’ s dual between the Bruins’ junior right-hander in Murphy and the Hawks’ sophomore lefty in Henry Zatkowski.

“They’re a quality team, the best we have seen this season,” said the Hawk’s first-year head coach Craig Estrin. He was the school’s JV coach for five seasons before taking the varsity reigns this spring. “Broadneck is well-coached.”

River Hill tallied a run in the first inning on a base knock by Henry’s brother and catcher Will Zatkowski. The game remained scoreless until the bottom of the fifth frame when the Bruins put three runs on the board and added another in the sixth for a commanding 4-1 lead behind Murphy. That ended up as the final result.

Zatkowski also had just one inning with no base-runners (3rd) and each starter had thrown 57 pitches through the first four innings. Zatkowski gave up four hits and struck out three and walked four before coming out in the crucial fifth.

First baseman Stergiou knocked in two runs with a bingle to center in the 3-run fifth, after the tying run scored on the alertness and baseball savvy of McGowan. The latter started the inning with a knock to left and Tom Hopkins followed with a single to center to set the stage for a sac bunt for No. 9 batter Ethan Teague.

Teague laid down a perfect bunt to move the runners, and he was ruled safe at first base. McGowan, who was on second noticed that during the chaotic situation, nobody had called time out. So, the Bruins’ third-baseman just kept running and stomped on home plate to tie the game, much to the dismay of the River Hill contingent.

“Yeah, I agree everybody was sleeping on the bunt when they scored,” said Coach Estrin. “It’s a teaching moment.”

Murphy, who went the distance on a five-hitter, on 102 pitches, struck out nine, walked two and plucked a batter in posting his fourth win with no losses, already as many wins as he had as a sophomore (4-1). The only loss was to county champion and 4A State finalist Severna Park (17-1).

“Sean is our ace, was our guy last year as a sophomore and our guy this year,” said the Bruins’ sixth-year coach Matt Skrenchuk, a former Arundel Wildcat under the late coaching legend Bernie Walter.

“He’s a competitor and I’ve been watching him since he was in sixth grade. He had a brother, Jack Murphy, who was an outfielder and graduated from here in 2020. So, I’ve been real excited waiting for him (Sean) to get here to Broadneck High School.”

Despite how well Murphy mixed his three pitches – cutter, fast-ball and curve – the Hawks managed to put at least one runner on base every inning but the sixth when Murphy retired the Hawks in order. Zatkowski was replaced by Mike Flaim in the fifth. Flaim got the final out and then gave up the final run in the sixth as Teague singled into right.

Defensively the Bruins’ got an incredible diving out from senior second-baseman Josh Ehrlich in the top of the fifth, taking a likely extra-base knock into the right-center gap from Henry Zatkowski. On the other side, Hawks junior shortstop Demetre Koutras also flashed brilliance in the middle infield.

“I think it’s really good we were able to add River Hill to our schedule this year,” said Skrenchuk. “I think it’s important to play really good teams early in the season to give our guys an opportunity to be challenged. And they were challenged today and responded well.”

Pictured above: Broadneck ace Sean Murphy scattered five hits and struck out nine in a complete game victory over No. 6 River Hill, on Monday.


River Hill (7-1) 100 000 0 – 1 5 0
Broadneck (8-0) 000 031 X – 4 5 1
RH – Henry Zatkowski, Mike Flaim and Will Zatkowski; B – Sean Murphy and Joe Robertson.
WP-Murphy (4-0) LP-H. Zatkowski (3-1)

2B: RH-Eje Okojie.