BERLIN- Stephen Decatur’s unbeaten and top-seeded varsity baseball team couldn’t capitalize on late inning opportunities on Monday, falling to Bel Air, 4-0, at home in the first round of the state Class 3A East region playoffs, ending a dream of a perfect season and a potential state championship.
The Seahawks finished the regular season with a perfect 17-0 record to earn the number-one seed in the Class 3A East region tournament and a first round bye, but the dream season came to an abrupt halt against Bel-Air at home on Tuesday in the second round of the playoffs. Bel Air came into the game as the eight-seed in the region, but their ranking was not indicative of how the Bobcats played this year. Bel Air finished its regular season record with an impressive 11-2 mark.
Both teams came out firing blanks for the first two innings, but Bel Air broke the game open in the top of the third with four runs, which would be all the Bobcats would need. Bel Air loaded the bases in the third without ever hitting the ball out of the infield against Decatur pitcher Troy Bennett, who was dominating at times.
However, with bases loaded and one out, a Bel Air batter launched a deep drive to straightaway center that bounced once and carried over the fence for a ground-rule double that allowed the first two runs of the game to score. Bel Air added two more in the inning to take a 4-0 lead, which was all the Bobcats would ultimately need in the game. After Bel Air’s flurry in the third, both pitchers settled in and threw goose eggs through the middle innings before Decatur finally made some noise in the late innings.
Trailing 4-0, Decatur got two on and with one out in the bottom of the fifth when Josh Tyndall smoked a base hit up the middle. The ball was hit so hard, the Bel Air centerfielder scooped it up quickly and the Decatur runner on second stopped at third to load the bases with one out. However, the inning ended with the Bel Air pitcher striking out the next two Seahawks to end the threat.
In the sixth, Decatur’s Chris Bunting hit a sharp grounder to the right side of the infield that caught the Bel Air second baseman in the face, with Bunting ending up safe at first. Decatur’s Brad Stiles then hit a screaming liner over the bag at first that the home plate umpire called foul, touching off a chorus of loud boos by the Seahawks faithful. The first base umpire overruled the call and Decatur was in business with two on and nobody out, although had the call been right the first time, the Seahawks would have likely had runners on second and third rather than first and second, which turned out to be pivotal.
Lucas Koenig hit into a double play leaving a runner at third with two outs. James Rossi than looped a soft fly ball that fell into centerfield scoring Bunting from third for Decatur’s first run of the game. Will Lewis than hit a sharp grounder to short that was bobbled momentarily by the Bobcat shortstop, but he recovered and gunned out Lewis in a bang-bang play at first to end the threat.
In the seventh and final inning, Decatur had another opportunity to snatch victory from defeat. Mike Baglieri led off the inning with a mile-high pop-up to short that fell in for a base hit. Tyndall then hit another mile-high pop-up to second that also dropped in, but Baglieri was forced out at second. The Bel Air pitcher than settled down and struck out the last two batters to end the game at 4-1 and the season for the Seahawks.