Both coaches described the circumstances as exceptionally unusual, yet two Anne Arundel County teams experienced the same rarity last week: Severna Park's boys' lacrosse team and Arundel's baseball team felt like victims of missed calls in state championship games.
For Arundel, the perceived injustice happened in the bottom of the seventh inning, when Quince Orchard's Mike Celenza hit a single with the bases loaded and the game tied.
Matt O'Keefe crossed safely on what became the game-winning hit in Quince Orchard's 10-9 victory. But Arundel Coach Bernie Walter said two other Quince Orchard players never advanced on the play and should have been called out, and the run should not have counted. The umpires, after a brief discussion, disagreed.
"They're just wrong this time on the rules," Walter said. "That's a rare situation on obviously the key play in the game."
Severna Park boys' lacrosse players also placed partial blame for their loss on an unusual key play. With the game tied in double overtime, Dulaney's Ryan Hoff allegedly picked up a ball with his hand to gain possession, an illegal move. He then fed a pass to Neal Barthelme, who scored the winning goal to put Dulaney up 14-13.
"He definitely picked up the ball there, and I can't believe nobody saw that," said Mike Gvozden, Severna Park's goalie. "It's a tough way to lose a game on those circumstances. I'm not even sure what to say."
Both Arundel and Severna Park, though, were sure how to act. After brief discussions and complaints, each team accepted its second-place trophy gracefully and clapped as the other team, the state title winner, was announced.
During the trophy ceremony, Gvozden -- who just minutes earlier had called it an "unfair loss" -- shouted for his teammates to applaud in honor of Dulaney. Arundel's players -- who sat stunned in the dugout for five minutes after the loss -- unanimously blamed their own seven errors for their defeat.
"You've got to pick up and move on," Walter said, "and that's what we're going to do."
Said Severna Park Coach Jim Beardmore: "A whole season isn't going to be tainted by one moment. Was it a tough break? Maybe. But we've got a proud team here, and we're going to remember this year for all the things that went right."
A loss in the 2A state semifinals ended Southern's baseball season last week. Worse still, the loss extended a streak that's come to define the program, players and coaches said.
For the third year in a row, Southern advanced to the state semifinals only to fall one win short of playing for the state title. This year, the Bulldogs lost to North Hagerstown, 10-5, at Arundel High School.
"It's a streak now, and I have nothing to explain it," Southern Coach Manny Branco said. "We do a great job getting to this point, and then we kind of fold. I don't know. I don't have any answers for it."
For a while last week, Southern looked like it would break the streak. The Bulldogs climbed out of a 5-0 hole by scoring two runs in the fourth inning and three more in the fifth. Then Southern's momentum skidded to a halt when North Hagerstown took advantage of an error and two wild pitches to score five runs in the seventh inning.
"It was just a disaster," said Southern junior Ken Misal, who pitched the seventh inning. "Everything fell apart for us. It's almost like once we get this far, we're suddenly cursed."
Severna Park seniors Nick Athans and Connor Chalmers entered the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association Tennis Tournament with a simple goal.
"We just didn't want to lose in the first round like we did last year," Athans said. "We just wanted to win at least one match."
Athans and Chalmers surpassed that goal, posting three-set victories over Dulaney's George Cook and Jon Ko and Oakland Mills' Brian Burkhalter and Faisal Qayumi to advance to the semifinals.
Athans and Chalmers (19-4) lost to eventual champions Jeff Luse and Dan Stahl of Whitman, 6-1, 6-1 in the semifinals, then fell to Matt Cheng and Andrew Marcus of Churchill in the consolation final, 6-0, 6-3, to finish fourth.
"I'm really happy for us to come in fourth because the tennis we saw here is so much better than what we saw in our county during the season," Chalmers said. "Tennis in Montgomery County is the best we've seen. Severna Park is more of a lacrosse school; Churchill is a tennis school."
Athans and Chalmers were the top Anne Arundel county finishers. The Arundel boys' doubles team of Peter Sooy and Clint Kohler and the Glen Burnie girls' doubles team of twins Crystal and Katherine Morris were the only other county teams to win a match.
"We're the only ones from our county who made it this far, so that definitely means a lot," Chalmers said. "We definitely exceeded our expectations."
Staff writer Jon Gallo contributed to this report.