ABERDEEN, Md. — Ryan Kennington was sitting in the stands when Northwest won the school’s first state title in 2012. He was a middle schooler trying to decide where to attend high school and had narrowed it down to Northwest and St. Johns. He chose the WCAC school in Upper Northwest.
Kennington was in attendance Friday night for the Jaguars’ second state title, not as a spectator but as a champion. He transferred to Northwest before his junior season, and as a senior helped lead the Jaguars on a journey that culminated with an 8-0 win over Howard in the Maryland 4A state final.
“Who knows what would have happened if I stayed,” Kennington said, a championship medal dangling from his neck. “I’m glad just to be here with my teammates now.”
Despite an impressive regular season dotted with blowouts, Northwest’s path to Friday’s final was fraught with drama. The Jaguars needed a pair of one-run victories, including a come-from-behind win over Blair after a 23-hour weather delay in the state quarterfinals, to earn a spot in the championship game.
Friday was a different experience. The Jaguars (19-4) recorded just six hits, taking advantage of wildness from Howard’s pitchers.
Northwest scored the game’s first run in the second and then grabbed control in the third, taking a 4-0 lead by inning’s end despite not recording a hit. The Jaguars loaded the bases on three walks, with each runner eventually scoring on separate wild pitches.
The Lions (17-8) followed that with their best scoring chance to that point, recording their first hit off Northwest starter Michael Yuille. They then loaded the bases for Brendan Foster, whose flyball to right started a double play.
Kennington settled under the ball, and after seeing the runner on third making for home, fired to catcher Alex Madoo, his throw easily beating the runner. Madoo tagged him and pumped his fist.
“We knew this was a good team, they just didn’t come out hitting,” senior Josh Netterville said.
Though the Jaguars held a comfortable margin the entire game, Netterville said he didn’t feel confident until senior Griffin Bubb, who came on in relief after Yuille spun six scoreless frames, sealed the win with a strikeout. It was then that the Jaguars stormed their pitcher, flicking off their caps and revealing the blond hair each player had bleached in a show of unity.
Standing along the first base line after the game, Netterville took off his hat and pointed to the brim. It was decorated with the signatures of all of his teammates.
“I wanted to be able to remember this team,” he said.