Jake Shibilsky tried to listen to his Chesapeake teammates' encouragement yesterday as he strode to the batter's box with the Cougars down to their last out and trailing Patuxent by one run.
"Just get a hit," they told the junior pitcher.
"I know that's what I'm supposed to do," Shibilsky said, "but if I got my pitch, I was going to try to crush it."
On a 2-0 count, Shibilsky drove a fastball over the fence in center field to tie the Maryland 4A East semifinal. After Shibilsky shut down the Panthers in the top of the eighth inning, Steve Philipp's two-out bloop single scored Chris Holland to give the Cougars a 3-2 victory in a thrilling game.
"It was the best game I've ever played in," said Shibilsky, who walked in his other two times at the plate.
Seventh-ranked Chesapeake (20-2) will visit Thomas Stone, which upset defending 4A champion Old Mill, 7-3, in yesterday's other semifinal. Thomas Stone got a three-run home run from senior Brian Garner and junior Jon Kale pitched 12/3 scoreless innings for the save against fifth-ranked Old Mill.
Shibilsky, a left-hander, pitched all eight innings, yielding six hits and one walk with 12 strikeouts against Patuxent (16-6). He threw 86 of his 127 pitches for strikes.
Keith Rallies Damascus
Kevin Keith's nose is swollen. So is his right cheek. And Damascus's center fielder still has a little blood in his right eye from a line drive that hit him in the face last week. But Keith is not tentative on the baseball field, and yesterday he came through with a key hit to help the Hornets rally in the bottom of the seventh inning for a 3-2 victory over visiting Wootton in a Maryland 4A West Region semifinal.
Although just 5 feet 10, 175 pounds, Keith started at nose guard for the Damascus football team, which won the Maryland 4A title last fall. That toughness has carried over to the baseball field, where the junior did not miss a game after breaking his nose and fracturing his cheek after losing a ball in the sun.
"He really shouldn't be playing," Damascus Coach Jim McManus said. "But he's such a threat."
Yesterday, Keith again ignored his injuries, sliding headfirst into second while stealing a base and diving face-first for a ball in the outfield. Then, with Damascus trailing 2-1 entering its final at-bat and facing elimination, Keith led off with a single to left field, his second hit of the game. Scott Story reached on an error and a sacrifice bunt, putting runners on second and third with one out.
After a pop out, Austin Bernardo -- who previously had three hits -- hit a slow ground ball, and a throwing error on a close play at first base allowed Keith and Story to score for a 3-2 victory.
"I'm starting to feel better," Keith said, adding that he also has had occasional headaches and nose bleeds. "I'm starting to get my vision back."
The Hornets (15-4) will play Friday against the winner of today's game between No. 1 Quince Orchard and Sherwood.