There are numbers and statistics that demonstrate the Severna Park baseball team's base running prowess. But the Falcons' attitude on the base paths can be summarized in one pithy comment from Coach Jim McCandless.
On April 2, Severna Park had a 7-1 lead in the top of the fifth against Southern, and cleanup hitter Matt Wyble stood on first base following a two-run single. After one pitch and a throw to first base, McCandless -- coaching third -- shouted advice to Wyble across the diamond that could be heard by both dugouts and everyone in the infield: "Hey, I think you can get another step over there."
With a six-run lead, Wyble -- not one of the fleetest Falcons -- wasn't going anywhere. But that base running attitude -- one more step, one quick jump, one extra base -- has helped propel No. 2 Severna Park (6-0 through the weekend) to the county's only undefeated mark.
"You practice that way, and you do it all the time no matter what the score is," McCandless said. "You get in good habits, and that makes you a better ballplayer, and it just becomes instinctive."
Now for the statistics: After Friday's 10-0 win over Meade, the Falcons had an astounding 49 stolen bases in six games, putting them on pace to smash the state record of 153, set by Bowie in 1999. Eight players had stolen at least one base, and two -- sophomore Evan Richter (13) and senior Alex Vitale (10) -- had already reached double digits.
"A lot of underclassmen came in this year with a lot of speed, and I guess that kind of boosted the upperclassmen to get our speed started," Vitale said. "It's exciting; it keeps us in the game; and it gives teams different looks."
Against Southern, the Falcons' speed and daring swayed the momentum in several ways. Richter, the center fielder, reached base four times, and each time he quickly took another base on his own. Vitale created a distraction with a big lead off third base, causing the entire Southern infield to huddle in conference on the pitcher's mound. Leadoff man Andrew Jensen turned what looked like a standup double into a sliding triple and then scored on a sacrifice fly.
Such base running "is going to put a lot of pressure on teams," McCandless said. "A lot of people who know me aren't used to me doing that. It's really not my personality, but you have to play with the hand you're dealt. If you've got guys who can run, it doesn't make sense not to run."
With a solid corps of starting pitchers -- headlined by seniors Ryan Doot and Tom Howell -- a few manufactured runs likely will go a long way.
"[McCandless] said it's by far the fastest speed he's ever had, and we're going to use it," said Howell, who yielded one hit and one unearned runs in six innings against Southern. "They get me runs, and I'll do my job."
The Falcons, who lost a one-run game in last year's state semifinals, have no plans to curb their base-path enthusiasm, even as games get more meaningful and the playoffs approach.
"Until we find someone who stops us," Vitale said, "it's run, rabbit, run."