Charles DeFilippo stood frozen near first base, a picture of disbelief with his hands clutched over his head and mouth hanging open.
The Churchill senior was certain that the flyball he had popped into right field would drop for a hit in the fifth inning of Tuesday’s Maryland 4A baseball state semifinal against Catonsville. But it didn’t. And even then, the senior figured Michael Albers had enough time to dash from third for the tying run. But Catonsville’s Scott Beautz threw a laser to home plate for the double play.
During its eight-game win streak and improbable run to the state tournament, most everything had bounced he way of 11th-seeded Churchill, which entered the postseason with a 7-10 mark. Tuesday told a different story, with the Bulldogs falling just short in a 4-3 loss to Catonsville at Shipley Field on the University of Maryland campus.
The Comets will face South River in Friday’s state championship at 7 p.m. at Ripken Field.
In a game that saw the lead change hands three times, Churchill stranded nine runners on base and was thrown out three times at home plate.
Churchill (11-11) gained the early momentum behind RBI singles by Albers and Eric Brodkowitz that built a 2-1 lead after one inning.
The Comets responded, turning three hits into three runs in the third and fourth innings. Another Churchill RBI single, this time from Matt Castelli in the bottom of the fourth, cut the deficit to 4-3, but that’s as close as the Bulldogs would get.
A bases-loaded threat in the sixth ended with a flyout and groundout. Then, with runners on first and second and one out for Churchill in the seventh, the Comets turned a game-ending double play on a pop fly and tag throw to first base.
“It’s bittersweet to have it all end this way,” DeFilippo said with tears in his eyes. “Nobody thought we had a chance to make it this far, but we did. We just couldn’t get the clutch hits we needed tonight.”
●SOUTH RIVER 4, ELEANOR ROOSEVELT 0: As the Raiders’ Robert Lozado trotted to first base after being plunked by a pitch in the sixth inning of the Maryland 4A baseball state semifinal, Seahawks Coach Ken Dunn fiddled with the idea of relieving junior pitcher Craig Sheridan.
“We had Scott Mitchell warming up just in case and then that curveball got away from Craig,” Dunn said. “But that kid always comes back. Whenever it looks like he’s finished, he’s not. He just keeps fighting.”
Sheridan rewarded his coach’s confidence by retiring the next four batters to advance South River to its first state final since 1983.
In Tuesday’s complete game one-hitter, Sheridan retired the first 11 batters he faced en route to an 11-strikeout, one-walk performance.
“I felt good from the get-go,” Sheridan said. “I was able to get ahead with my fastball, our defense came up big and our sticks finally came alive.”
The Seahawks (19-5) gave Sheridan all the support he needed in the first inning. Mitchell, who will pitch Friday, hit a shallow ball to center field, but Roosevelt (17-3) couldn’t handle the catch, allowing Gabe Vertucci and Jake Gratz to score. Two at-bats later, Mitchell came home on a Conner Cox groundout to make it 3-0.