Scuffling at the plate and in the field for most of Tuesday afternoon’s game, Severna Park was just seven outs away from becoming South River’s third straight upset victim in the 4A East Region II baseball tournament.
The cavalry came just in time.
Nate Clarke pitched two sterling innings of relief and the Falcons scratched out three hits and two runs in their final two innings at the plate to overcome the Seahawks and win the region championship 4-3.
Severna Park played from behind all game, matching South River with a run apiece in the first and second innings before the bats fell silent. It looked like things might break South River’s way until Angel Santiago-Cruz singled home Charlie Hartman to tie the game in the fifth inning. An inning later, Nick Dinunzio — who in his previous at-bat had hit into an inning-ending double play — doubled into the left-center field gap to plate Ethan Rodriguez with the decisive run.
“This team just has no quit,” said Dinunzio. “Some teams lose their composure, let their emotions get the best of them, get flustered and they can’t come back. We just stayed in it and didn’t quit.”
Clarke allowed just one baserunner in his relief appearances and struck out two South River batters, including the game-ending out, which sparked emotional celebrations near the first-base line.
“As soon as we got the lead, I knew we were going to win,” Clarke said. “I just had to go out and throw strikes. Once he swung and missed, it’s just crazy. There’s no time to think; you’re just celebrating.”
Both Clarke and Dinunzio pointed toward the team’s resume of experience over the last three seasons: two state championship game appearances, more tight games than they can remember, and two extra-inning county games against South River and Broadneck earlier in the season. Those moments, they said, gave the Falcons the confidence they needed to believe they could win even when things weren’t going their way.
“You’d like to think that (experience plays a factor),” said Severna Park coach Eric Milton. “The fact that we came up big when we needed to … it could have gone either way. They’re a tough team, made all the plays and made it super hard on us. … Our guys stepped up and made the plays, and made the pitches when we needed to, and we were fortunate to come out on top.”
Kody Phillips homered and went 2-for-2 for the Falcons, while Hartman also drove in a run. Rodriguez went 2-for-2 with a walk. Starting pitcher Nathan Murphy struck out eight and allowed three earned runs.
Seeded third in the state quarterfinals, Severna Park will host Walt Whitman on Friday.
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