Wednesday, 21 May 2014 14:47

photos by Bill Gates


Sparrows Point finally lays claim to a boys regional title


Win sets up Maritime match in state semifinal

by Bill Gates

    Regional tournaments have been frustrating for Sparrows Point boys teams this season.
    The soccer team lost in double overtime to a Pikesville squad that went on to reach the state finals. The football lost in the regional finals due in large part to an illegal play that never should have been allowed to stand.
    And the wrestling team saw Hereford steal away the regional crown by one point with a pin in the last match.
    All three squads were represented on a baseball team that was not to be denied.
    After a tight one-run victory over a Pikesville team that had beaten them twice during the regular season, the Pointers whipped New Town 15-5 in the Class 1A North Section I final and then blasted visiting Fairmont Heights 24-1 in the regional championship game on Saturday.
    Sparrows Point was to play Baltimore Maritime Academy on Tuesday in the Class 1A state semifinals after The Eagle went to press.
    In the other semifinal, Smithsburg (12-11) of Washington County was to play defending state champion Cambridge-South Dorchester (15-8).
    The Class 1A state championship game is scheduled for Saturday at 1 p.m. at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen.
    “This was our goal,” Sparrows Point coach Marc Kline said. “I came here for one reason, to help these kids win a regional title.
    It was the first regional crown for Sparrows Point baseball since 2008.
    The Pointers also won regional titles in 1976, 1979, 1980, 1984, 1985 and 1987.
    Sparrows Point reached the state finals in 1979, 1980 and 1984, winning in 1979.
    “I’ve never won a regional championship,” said outfielder Cody Geho, who played soccer and wrestled. “It feels good.”
    Geho, who is batting over .600 for the season, was a perfect 12-for-12 in the three regional playoff games.
    “I hit for the person in front of me, and the person behind me [in the batting order],” Geho said. “I just try to put it in play.”
    After spotting Fairmont Heights a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning, Sparrows Point sent 18 batters to the plate and scored 14 runs in the bottom of the inning.
    Fourteen consecutive Pointer batters reached base safely (although the first batter was later thrown out at home).
    Geho had a single and a double and scored twice in the inning. James Wright tripled and singled and scored twice, while Bailey Street, Brendan Fraser and Dustin Reider each scored twice.
    Brent Kline had a bases-loaded triple in the inning.
    After giving up a single to Fairmont Heights’ first batter, Jason Nunez retired 15 of the next 16 batters he faced.
    Nunez struck out 10 batters in five innings and did not walk a batter.
    “He came out and threw strikes,” Marc Kline said.
    While it was the top seed in Class 1A North Section II, Fairmont Heights won only four games during the regular season.
    “Our word for today was ‘discipline,’” Marc Kline said. “We had no idea what we were getting, so we had to play smart, and we did.”
    While Geho batted 12-for-12 in the playoffs, Street was right behind him, going 11-for-12.
    Against New Town, the Pointers spotted the Titans a 2-0 lead in the top of the first before coming back with five runs in the bottom of the inning.
    Sparrows Point led 9-4 after the second inning and 13-4 entering the fifth.
    Needing two runs in the bottom of the inning to bring the game to an early end, the Pointers got an RBI single from Street, then Geho scored from third on a wild pitch.
    “Sparrows Point was not going to lose three regional finals in a row,” said Fraser, who was on the football and wrestling teams. “We came out ready to play hard.”
    (The soccer loss came in the sectional final.)
    “It’s like a weight’s been lifted,” Brent Kline said. “We played like we were supposed to play, like it was for the regional championship. We’re all clicking right now.”




Sparrows Point strolls to first regional crown since 1988


Sparrows Point was to play Lake Clifton in semis

by Bill Gates

    Thirty years after Sparrows Point’s only trip to the softball state championship game, the Pointers are poised to return.
    Sparrows Point completed its romp through the Class 1A North regional tournament with a 15-0 win over visiting Forestville on Thursday.
    The Pointers (15-2) were to play Lake Clifton in the Class 1A state semifinals on Tuesday after The Eagle went to press.
    A victory — Sparrows Point is heavily favored in the game — would send the Pointers to the state finals for the first time since 1984.
    Manchester Valley (14-6) of Carroll County will play Bohemia Manor (17-4) of Cecil County in the other state semifinal.
    This was the first softball regional title for Sparrows Point since 1988. The Pointers also won a regional title in 1985.
    “We were pumped up. We were ready,” Sparrows Point centerfielder Natalie Lau said. “We really wanted this.”
    Sparrows Point did not allow a single earned run in the regional tournament as it crushed ACCE 17-0 and Pikesville 18-2 before meeting Forestville.
    The Knights of Prince George’s County were an unknown quantity for the Pointers, who weren’t sure what to expect after two easy wins.
    “I was trying to get everyone to focus on the here and now,” Pointer pitcher Brooke Peterson said. “That was the most difficult thing. We kept our focus, and we did it.”
    The Pointers watched the Knights during warmups and judged that they were better than ACCE and Pikesville.
    Still, by the bottom of the second inning, Sparrows Point was intentionally making outs to keep from really running up the score.
    Peterson retired the first three batters in the top of the first, two by strikeout, and the Pointers scored six runs in the bottom of the inning.
    Hannah Auvil, the second batter, hit a two-run home run and Sara Morehouse had a two-run triple and came home to score on a dropped third strike.
    Peterson struck out the side in the top of the second, and the Pointers should have gone three-up, three-down in the bottom of the inning.
    An infield error extended the inning, however, and Sparrows Point took advantage to the tune of eight runs.
    Emily Dutton started the scoring with a two-run double, and Emma Weisgal hit a two-run single and came around to score herself when the ball went under the left fielder’s glove.
    Auvil capped the inning with her second two-run home run, another deep blast to left field with Lau on base.
    Auvil, the catcher, also threw out runners attempting to steal second and third base.
    “After their first two batters, I knew they couldn’t catch up with my pitches,” Peterson said, “I threw mainly fastballs, with a few changeups.”
    Peterson struck out nine batters in four innings before Dutton cleaned up in the fifth.
    She walked two batters and gave up one hit.
    Against Pikesville, Peterson threw a five-inning no-hitter, although the Panthers scored two runs in the fourth inning with the help of a hit batter and two throwing errors on infield grounders.
    Sparrows Point scored nine runs in the first inning, with the big blast being a bases-loaded triple by Lau.
    Two runs scored on bases-loaded walks.
    The Pointers added three runs in the second inning for the 10-run lead that would kick in the mercy rule after five innings, then added five runs in the fourth after the Panthers had the temerity to score.
    The softball state championship games will be held at the University of Maryland in College Park.
    Times and dates for the four state softball finals had not been set by press time on Tuesday.
    Should the Pointers reach the state title game, they could play Friday night at 8 p.m. or on Saturday at noon, 2:30 or 5 p.m. Saturday at 5 p.m. is  considered most likely.
    Manchester Valley is making its first appearance in the state semi-finals. Bohemia Manor is back in the state semifinals for the first time since 2008 and last won a state title in 1995.


Pointer softball, baseball will be “underdogs” in state finals


by Bill Gates

It’s a pretty good bet — heck, likely a sure thing — that while Manchester Valley faced Bohemia Manor in the Class 1A state softball semifinal on Tuesday, there was talk among the fans, the players, probably even the coaches that the game was the “real” state championship game.
    As in, whichever team won that game is certain to beat the winner of the other semifinal between Sparrows Point and Lake Clifton.
    In their eyes, the Pointers benefited from a weak region and then had the luck of the draw to get an in-over-their-heads Lake Clifton team in the semifinals.
    Let ‘em keep thinking that way.
    Sure, Sparrows Point’s regional tournament — during which the Pointers didn’t allow an earned run in three games — wasn’t that tough.
    But it’s regular season schedule was.
    The Pointers went 12-2 against a regular-season schedule filled with good teams from larger schools.
    (And they should have been 13-1, save for one bad inning against Kenwood and two baserunning mistakes.)
    Along the way, Sparrows Point beat Perry Hall, Dulaney, Loch Raven, Kenwood and Towson.
    The Pointers did lose to Eastern Tech, but, well, so would a county all-star team.
    Perry Hall and Dulaney are Class 4A schools which faced each other in the sectional finals before the Gators lost in the regional final to a perennially strong Sherwood squad.
    Loch Raven reached the regional finals in Class 2A North, where it ran into that Eastern Tech team.
    Kenwood lost in the Class 4A North regional tournament to Catonsville (which was another Class 4A notch on the Pointers’ belt).
    So, yeah, Sparrows Point has faced and beaten its share of good, bigger schools.
    Still, there’s no way around the fact that Sparrows Point should enter the state final having not been challenged in its previous four games.
    Bohemia Manor has been honed to a sharp edge after three tense, tight  regional tournament wins by scores of 2-1 (Perryville), 4-1 (Havre de Grace) and 2-1 (Cambridge-South Dorchester) while Sparrows Point was intentionally making outs by the second inning.
    After opening the postseason with a 19-5 win (Smithsburg), Manchester Valley won its next two games by 4-3 (North Carroll) and 6-2 (Fort Hill).
    Sparrows Point’s biggest obstacle will be adjusting to good pitching after four straight games against relatively slow pitchers.
    “That does concern me,” Pointer coach Duke Vickery said. “We need to be ready for stronger pitchers.
    “We’ll work on a pitching machine and [practice] against our own pitchers.”
    In Brooke Peterson, the Pointers have a pitcher who throws as hard as any opposing pitcher they’re likely to face.
    “But I don’t like to do that, because I want our pitchers to always focus on getting batters out and not get used to throwing it in there for someone to hit,” Vickery said.
    (Peterson has said that will not be a concern while pitching to her teammates.)
    The best pitcher for Bohemia Manor (17-4) is freshman Rachel Jones, who has a 9-0 record with a 0.25 ERA and 89 strikesouts in 56 innings.
    Manchester Valley (14-6) has Madison Grimm, a junior with an 11-4 record, a 1.61 ERA and 187 strikeouts in 115 innings.
    Manchester Valley also has a sophomore catcher, Kayla Geho, who is batting .500 with 16 RBIs, two home runs and 20 runs.
    (Just wondering if she’s any relation to Sparrows Point baseball’s Cody Geho.)
    Either team will be the best Sparrows Point has faced on the postseason (which, really, should be expected when you reach the state finals).
    Can Sparrows Point handle them? Well, there’s always the possibility the Pointers have been crushing teams because they’re just that good.


    The Sparrows Point baseball team has a similar problem: after surviving a close one-run victory over Pikesville, the Pointers cruised in their next two games by scores of 15-5 and 24-1.
    They drew Baltimore Maritime Academy in the state semifinals on Tuesday after the Eagle went to press, and it’s not a stretch to assume the Pointers easily advanced to Saturday’s state championship game.
    So, natch, the other semifinal pitting defending state Cambridge-South Dorchester (15-8) against Smithsburg (12-11) is likely being considered the “real” Class 1A state championship game.
    Except for Smithsburg having entered the playoffs with a 9-11 record and not going over .500 until it stunned Allegany 6-5 in the West regional final.
    An Allegany team that entered the game 19-1 and had whipped Smithsburg 13-1 in their previous meeting.
    So, either the Leopards have that “team of destiny” working for them and are peaking at the right time, or they get brutally exposed by Cambridge-South Dorchester.
    The Vikings reportedly have a pitcher who can throw 90 miles per hour.
    Which means the ball will travel really, really far when the Pointers make contact.
    Cambridge-South Dorchester won the East regional title with a 9-0 win over a Havre de Grace squad most observers figured to be the team to beat in Class 1A this season.
    The problem for Sparrows Point is the broken little finger suffered by their ace, Josh Icenrode, during the New Town game last week.
    The finger is on Icenrode’s non-throwing hand, but he still needs to be able to wear a glove and catch the ball.
    It’s not known if he’ll be ready by Saturday, and it probably won’t be known if he can play until game time.
    If not, Pointer coach Marc Kline has several well-rested arms to put on the mound.
    And all he asks is they throw strikes. The Pointers can catch the ball, and have so much speed in the outfield that, as the cliche goes, raindrops don’t even reach the ground.
    It’s been 35 years since Sparrows Point’s only baseball state title. That’s a nice milestone to set.