After a breakout junior season in which he connected on a number of clutch home runs, Eleanor Roosevelt senior center fielder Trevor Allen was mired in a long-ball slump this spring. He was convinced that word passed around to pitchers in Maryland that he couldn’t hit a curveball, telling himself that the chatter was part of the reason that he hit just one home run all year, which came a month ago against Laurel.
Allen was determined to change that perception Friday afternoon against Bowie, and fittingly enough, he did — on a breaking ball.
Allen crushed a two-run home run in the fifth inning to break open the game, and Eleanor Roosevelt held off a late charge from the rival Bulldogs to win 6-4 and capture the Maryland 4A South region title on a sweltering afternoon in Greenbelt.
“I guess it finally paid off,” Allen said. “I saw the curve come in, and it fell right on the meat of the bat.”
It was the third 4A South final appearance in as many years for the Raiders (17-2), who failed to break through in 2011 and 2012 — the latter of which was a loss against Bowie.
Eleanor Roosevelt found a way to reverse the trend Friday behind timely defensive play and the towering shot from Allen in the top of the fifth, which landed in a thicket of trees behind the left-center field wall. Almost immediately after he made contact, Allen raised his arms in triumph, watching the ball as he trotted slowly down the first base line.
“I talk a lot, and words can’t even describe how elated I am right now,” Allen said. “I have faith in my team, but they scare me sometimes.”
Robert Lozado and Kyle Fletcher each added a pair of hits for the Raiders, who advance to the Maryland state semifinals Tuesday at 4 p.m. at the University of Maryland, meeting South River, which beat North County in the East region final, 5-2.
Moving on to the next round was in serious jeopardy in the seventh inning Friday, as Bowie (18-4) mounted a rally after Bennett Garner ripped a one out, two-RBI double into the gap in left-center field to cut Roosevelt’s lead to 6-4.
Lozado, who caught the first 61 / 3 innings, was called upon to relieve left-handed starter Curtis Perrell. Lozado eventually forced a chopper back to the mound for the final out of the game. It was one of many key defensive plays that Roosevelt converted on the afternoon — including a dazzling double play from second baseman Joe Garner that got the Raiders out of a jam in the bottom of the fourth.
“We stressed that we have to try and do the little things to get where we want to be,” said Bowie Coach Bryan Harris. “[The double play] changed the momentum back in their favor.”
The little things also saved Roosevelt on Friday. While playing catcher in 85-degree heat all afternoon, Lozado studied the tendencies of the umpire, he said. He was exhausted by the time he was called on to get the save, with eye-black dripping down his cheeks — but he knew the umpire would call a fastball on the outside corner of the plate. So he threw it, and received more than he expected.
“As soon as the chopper came back to me,” Lozado said, “I grabbed it, and I couldn’t stop smiling after that point.”