Owls take regional baseball championship
Wednesday, 22 May 2013 14:38

Dundalk’s Zyle Babcock connects for the eventual game-winning home run in the top of the ninth inning in the Class 2A North regional championship game.

 Dundalk was to face Catoctin in state semifinals

by Bill Gates

Rumor has it Dundalk’s Zyle Babcock committed some kind of error in the second inning that helped Loch Raven take a 3-0 lead.
    Whatever. Babcock’s leadoff home run in the top of the ninth inning turned that miscue into a footnote, at best.
    Babcock blasted the third pitch over the left field fence, lifting the third-seeded Owls to a 6-5 win over the top-seeded host Raiders in the Class 2A North regional championship game on Friday.
    “As soon as I hit it, I thought it was a gapper,” Babcock said. “It wasn’t until I rounded first base I knew it was gone.
    “It felt good, after making outs my first three times up. You never give up.”
    Even before the game-winning home run, Babcock had kept Dundalk in the game with three great innings in relief of starter Alex Brilhart.
    There was also the one-hit shutout he threw against Lansdowne in the Owls’ 3-0 regional semifinal win, but more on that later.
    The seven innings Babcock threw against Lansdowne and the three innings against Loch Raven meant that he had reached his 10-inning limit for the week.
    So, to protect a one-run lead entering the bottom of the ninth, the Owls turned to Zach Carrick, a freshman.
    “He pitched a good bit in relief during the regular season,” Dundalk coach Brian Powell said. “He is very consistent in throwing strikes.”
    Due up for Loch Raven were the ninth, first and second hitters in the lineup.
    Carrick got the first out on a grounder to Babcock at shortstop, and the next batter hit a fly ball to leftfielder C.J. Hurd.
    Then came a deep fly ball in the gap right-center gap. Centerfielder Davon Ingram ran it down, and the Owls had their first regional championship since 1994.
    Dundalk (10-8) was to face the west regional champion Catoctin (17-4) on Tuesday at Montgomery Blair High.
    A victory would put the Owls in the Class 2A state championship game on Saturday at 4 p.m. at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen against either North Caroline or Patuxent.
    Dundalk won its last — and only — state baseball championship in 1983.
    “We just battle, battle, battle all season,” Powell said. “We’ve talked all year about taking care of the next pitch, the next play.
    “We trust in each other, execute fundamental baseball, then the sky’s the limit.”
    Dundalk started the season 0-6 and finished the regular season with a 7-8 record.
    The Owls weren’t supposed to beat second-seeded Lansdowne (12-5) in the regional semifinals, and certainly were the underdogs against a 13-3 Loch Raven team that handled Dundalk 8-1 in the second game of the season.
    But Babcock fanned 10 Vikings in seven innings, gave up one hit and only allowed two runners to reach third base in the 3-0 regional semifinal win.
    Just once, in the bottom of the seventh, did more than four Lansdowne batters come to the plate in one inning.
    “Each batter was a battle,” Babcock said. “But my off-speed stuff was working real well. They were really off-balance.
    Babcock struck out two batters in the first, fourth and sixth innings and struck out the side in the fifth.
    The Vikings had runners on second and third with one out in the seventh, but Babcock finished the game with a strikeout and a flyout.
    Dundalk took a 2-0 lead in the third as Babcock singled and eventually scored on an error; and Brilhart drove in Jesse Isbell.
    Brilhart doubled with two outs in the fifth and scored on Zach Bundy’s single.
    Against Loch Raven, Babcock relieved Brilhart in the sixth inning with the score tied 4-4 and a runner on first base.
    After the rough second inning during which the Raiders scored three unearned runs, Brilhart had settled down and pitched well, but Powell went to Babcock after Brilhart walked the first batter in the sixth.
    After a comebacker to the mound, Babcock struck out six straight Raider batters.
    The Owls missed a chance to blow open the game in the top of the eighth, when they sent seven batters to the plate, had three hits and two walks but scored only one run — and that was when Brilhart, who had doubled earlier in the inning, scored from third on a wild pitch.
    Loch Raven tied the game with an unearned run in the bottom of the inning after a single eluded the outfielder and allowed the runner to score from first base.
    But on this day, even four unearned runs weren’t going to beat the Owls.
    “I had so much stuff running through my head [after dropping the popup in the second inning],” Babcock said. “I had to keep my head up, knew I would have another opportunity.”
    Yup.
    In the fifth inning, Babcock drove in a run to cut Loch Raven’s lead to 3-2.
    After Davon Ingram stole home to tie the game, Babcock scored on Brilhart’s single to give the Owls a 4-3 lead.
    Brilhart had put Dundalk on the scoreboard in the fourth inning, as he tripled and scored on Bundy’s sacrifice fly.
    “[The three unearned runs] kind of killed my mood,” Brilhart said. “But we had a lot of innings left. I was thinking, keep getting them out and see what we could do.”