Gaithersburg 8, Salisbury 7
Gaithersburg Post 295's Joe Mattes was beginning to feel sick. He had pitched nearly five innings on a hot, humid day in yesterday's Maryland American Legion baseball championship game in Frederick, and he was awaiting what would likely be his final at-bat to lead off the bottom of the ninth inning. As he waited, Mattes focused on Salisbury Post 64 pitcher Sean Adams, partly to time the pitcher and partly to hold off the nausea.
Mattes then blasted the first pitch he saw from Adams, tying the game with a home run deep to right field. Three batters later, teammate Matt Collins singled in Jensen Pupa for the game-winning run as Gaithersburg pulled off a come-from-behind, 8-7 victory over Salisbury at McCurdy Field.
"Right before [I batted], I felt like I was going to throw up," said Mattes, a rising senior at Quince Orchard. "I told myself to hold it in until after the game. . . . It's all adrenaline right now."
The dramatic ninth inning capped a game-long comeback in which Gaithersburg had cut a 4-0 third-inning deficit to 4-2, 5-4, 6-5 and 7-6 but never tied or led Salisbury until the final inning.
Gaithersburg won the state championship for the second year in a row and advanced to the Mid-Atlantic Regional of the American Legion World Series in Boyertown, Pa., which starts next Thursday.
Gaithersburg had several heroes. First baseman Christopher Maloney hit a fifth-inning home run off the top of the glove of the right fielder, which made the score 5-4. Collins had three hits and four RBI, while his brother Kevin was 3 for 4 with two runs scored.
Pupa, named the tournament's most valuable player, earned the win after pitching 11/3 scoreless innings of relief. He also had four hits and three runs on offense.
"That's how we did it all tournament -- we never gave up," Pupa said. "We were always up in the dugout, we knew we could come back."
The biggest spark came from Mattes, though, who provided 42/3 innings of gutsy relief, striking out six and allowing three runs while battling a tough Salisbury offense under a bright midday sun. At one point, Mattes had to take a short water break after the heat caused him to feel dizzy.
In the ninth, still feeling affected by the heat, he watched Adams warm up and then hoped for a first-pitch fastball he could drive between the first and second basemen. He got the fastball, but he instead launched it high over the right field fence.
"What Joe did -- that was huge," Matt Collins said. "We knew we had it then."