After he gave up a hit to the first batter he faced yesterday afternoon, Southern pitcher Ken Misal paused and surveyed his opposition. First there was the rain, a consistent drizzle that made the ball slip off his fingers. Then there was the team in the visitor's dugout, Severna Park, which had won 10 consecutive games thanks largely to hot hitting.
"It seemed like a nightmare," Misal said. "I was just thinking, 'Please, let me get through this inning.' "
He didn't allow another hit.
Thanks to the one-hitter from Misal and clutch hitting in their final at-bat, the Bulldogs (4-6) claimed their biggest win of the season, 3-2, over Severna Park (10-3) in Harwood. Misal threw 115 pitches, struck out five and allowed one earned run.
"We came in on a roll, and we got stumped by a good pitcher," Severna Park Coach Jim McCandless said. "We could barely touch him. He threw a great game."
So did Severna Park's Sammy Sheckells, which is why the Falcons nearly escaped with their winning streak intact. After allowing two runs in the first inning, Sheckells surrendered only two more hits until he took the mound in the bottom of the seventh with the game tied at 2.
First baseman Ben Muell swung at the first pitch of the inning, smacking a double into the gap in left field. Nathan Mayberry bunted Muell to third and, one batter and one out later, Shaun Collins hit a line-drive single into the outfield to score the game-winning run.
"That's perfect baseball," Southern Coach Manny Branco said. "That's exactly what you want. We got a guy on base. We moved him over. We scored him. That's how you win games."
Nobody celebrated the winning run more than Misal, who jumped out of the dugout to great Muell and Collins near home plate. Misal, coaches said, has thrown well all season. He places his fastball almost anywhere in the strike zone, and his curveball tails to the outside against a right-handed hitter.
He's already won three games this season, and he could have won more with better run support.
"He's been great," Branco said.
Said Misal: "The one-hitter is cool, but it doesn't mean much if you don't win. We needed this game. This could turn around our whole season."