Whether it was the bright lights of the state championship game or the toll of a long season and a grueling state tournament run, the Howard High pitching staff took a walk on the wild side, Friday night in the 4A state baseball final at Ripken Stadium, and it cost the Lions dearly, as they fell to Northwest of Montgomery County, 8-0.

Four Howard pitchers combined to walk 10 Northwest batters and throw three wild pitches. The wildness played a direct roll in all eight Jaguar runs, digging a hole from which the Lions, who have made a habit of stirring comebacks, could not emerge.

Michael YuilleIn the end, however, it may not have mattered as Northwest senior pitcher Michael Yuille was brilliant in six shutout innings, striking out eight Lions and walking just two. Only a high pitch count kept him from going the distance, but teammate Griffin Bubb came on to throw a scoreless seventh inning to complete the shutout and lock down the Jaguars second baseball state crown. The first came in 2012.

“I went out there and had a catcher behind the plate who was lights out for me all game,” said Yuille, who also helped himself at the plate with two hits, including a double, and a RBI. “I’ve never shaken him off even one time this season. I knew when I got out there, we had a game plan. We sat on the bus, texting back and forth for the whole hour and I just went out there and trusted him.”

Sophomore Gabe Delgado made the start for Howard and, after a clean first inning, had trouble locating the strike zone in the Northwest second.

Third-basebaman Nick Phelps and first-baseman Zach Greber drew back-to-back walks to leadoff the inning for the Jaguars and both runners moved up one base on a sac bunt by Jon Hartig, before Delgado issued his third walk of the inning, to Bubb. Senior Jalen Magbie-Hunter was next in the box for Northwest and he rolled a slow grounder to short. The Lions were able to get one runner at second, but Magbie-Hunter beat the relay, allowing Phelps to race home with the first run.

Delgado got out of the second without further damage, but he opened the third inning with two more walks, forcing Howard coach Nick Hoffner to make a change. Ryan Kulick then took the hill for the Lions and he walked the only batter he faced and threw a wild pitch that allowed the third Northwest run to cross the plate. Ryan Kearney came on next and proceeded to walk one and throw two wild pitches, chasing in two more Jaguar runs, before finally getting out of the inning.

Despite all of the free base runners it allowed, Howard only trailed by four runs when it came to bat in the top of the fourth, an inning which started with great promise for the Lions.

With one out, Kulick and Cameron Robinson wrapped singles around a walk to Brian Jakubek, as the Lions loaded the bases for Craig Wiley. Wiley skied a fly-ball down the right-field line which was caught by Jaguar right-fielder Ryan Kennington, who fired a strike to catcher Alex Madoo, who tagged out Kulick five-feet up the line for the final out. The Lions never challenged Yuille again.

Northwest added two in the fifth and two more in the sixth to grow its lead to 8-0. Yuille had an RBI double in the fifth, driving home Kennington, who opened the inning with a free pass. A double by Nick Phelps and two more walks helped the Jaguars add their second run of the inning. In the Northwest sixth, Yuille had a two-out single, which was followed by a walk to Phelps. Zach Greber then hit a pop fly to left, which should have been the third out of the inning, but the ball was dropped, allowing the Jaguars final two runs to cross the plate.

Howard senior shortstop Cameron Robinson, who had the winning hit in the Lions’ stunning seventh-inning rally against Severna Park, in the 4A state semifinals, also had two hits on Friday, including a seventh-inning double. Despite the loss, he expressed only positive thoughts about his team and its season.

“I love this team,” said Robinson. “We’re a scrappy team, fighting with all we’ve got. We come here every day and work as hard as we can and I’m really proud of this team. We came up a little short, but that’s OK.”

Robinson also reflected on how he will recall the 2017 season in years to come.

“It’s going to be one of the greatest baseball seasons of my life,” added Robinson. “We were underdogs at Sherwood, at Severna Park. No one expected us to win, but we knew we could and we got the job done. Unfortunately, tonight we didn’t.”

Hoffner expressed similar sentiments, especially for Delgado.

“Gabe didn’t have his best stuff tonight, but we’re not here without Gabe,” said Hoffner. “He threw the last two innings on Tuesday to get us here against Severna Park. He had a good start against Dulaney in the regional final. Unfortunately, we just walked too many guys tonight, but my hat’s off to their guys, especially their pitcher. He was lights out tonight. They are deserving of winning a state championship.”


HOW 000 000 0  —  0  3  1
NW    013 022 x  —  8  6  1

Gabe Delgado, Ryan Klick (3), Ryan Kearney (3), Darian Kassiri (6) and Brian Jakubek; Michael Yulie, Griffin Bubb (7) and Alex Madoo
WP-Michael Yulie  LP-Gabe Delgado
2B: HOW-Cameron Robinson; NW-Michael Yuille, Nick Phelps.