Cal Ripken Sr. Collegiate League Championship
Silver Spring-Takoma Forces Rematch for Title
Nick Popp wanted to crawl into a hole and never emerge after committing two costly errors at shortstop in the Cal Ripken Sr. Collegiate Baseball League championship last night. Feeling like he had let his teammates down, Popp knew the only way to atone for his poor defense was with superb offense.
Popp had two hits, including a game-winning two-run homer in the eighth inning to help the Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts overcome a three-run deficit for which he was largely responsible. The Thunderbolts beat the Rockville Express, 5-3, at Shirley Povich Field in Bethesda and forced a decisive rematch tomorrow night at Blair High at 7.
"I knew I had to make up for the errors I made earlier in the game," Popp said. "Luckily, he gave me a good pitch I could hit and there was a guy on base."
The Thunderbolts entered the wooden bat league's double-elimination playoff tournament as the fifth seed with a 14-26 record. They eliminated the top-seeded Bethesda Big Train with an 8-1 victory yesterday afternoon before playing the second-seeded Express with sweat-soaked jerseys.
Rockville built a 3-0 lead by scoring twice in the fifth inning and once in the sixth without getting a hit. Silver Spring-Takoma committed three errors during that span, two by Popp.
That lead appeared secure because of a solid outing by Express starting pitcher Billy Gross , a former All-Met at Frederick High and now a redshirt freshman at West Virginia. He kept the Thunderbolts off balance with his sweeping breaking ball and was in line for the win until his defense betrayed him in the top of the seventh.
Trailing 3-0, Popp singled to start the Thunderbolts' rally. Gross then induced a possible double play ball by designated hitter Corey Greene, but Rockville second baseman Phil Boscarino couldn't make the back-handed play. A throwing error by Gross and a sacrifice fly resulted in three Thunderbolts runs and set the stage for Popp's redemption.
After catcher Gerardo Hernandez reached on a fielder's choice in the eighth, Popp, who hails from Baltimore and is a senior at Belmont Abbey College, blasted a fastball over the left field fence.
Left-handed reliever Matt Petersen , a senior at Salisbury, pitched 3 2/3 hitless innings to earn the win. He was excited at the prospect of one more game in the heat tomorrow.
"I think we're kind of running on adrenaline right now," Petersen said. "If we take a step back and relax, I think we'd feel a little tired. Now we're just focused on winning games."
-- Rich Campbell