A collective groan floated from the mouths of Huntingtown’s fans as Tyler Livingston’s pop fly sailed into shallow left field. They, like almost everyone else on hand at Joe Cannon Stadium for Wednesday’s Maryland 3A baseball semifinals, were sure the ball would plop into an Aberdeen player’s glove for the third out, extending a game that had already stretched into the ninth inning.

Everyone, that is, except A.J. Demino.

“Our coaches say it all the time: Never stop hustling,” the Hurricanes senior said. “I wasn’t worried about if the ball was caught or not. I just kicked it into fifth gear and ran home.”

The ball was not caught, and Demino did not stop hustling until he touched home plate, delivering the insurance run for Huntingtown in the top of the ninth in its 3-1 comeback victory against Aberdeen. The Hurricanes (20-4) advanced to Monday’s championship game to face Chesapeake, a walk-off 4-3 winner over Damascus in eight innings in Wednesday’s other semifinal.

Demino’s run was far from the first scoring opportunity for Huntingtown. Though the Hurricanes had little trouble making contact during their at-bats, they struggled to turn them into hits, stranding 10 runners in the process.

Abderdeen (15-8) broke up the offensive stalemate on Sam Smith’s RBI double to left field in the third inning. But Huntingtown pitcher Brandyn Vogtsberger silenced Aberdeen’s bats from there, allowing just two hits.

After an Aberdeen fielding error allowed the Hurricanes to knot the score at 1 in the sixth, Vogtsberger gave his team new life by fanning four of the seven batters he faced in the seventh and eighth innings.

“My coach came up to me in the eighth inning and asked how I felt, and I said there was no way I was leaving the mound,” Vogtsberger said. “I knew I had to attack the zone, and getting that first strike was big every at-bat.”

Down to their last out in the ninth, the Hurricanes also got aggressive at the plate. Following an Eddie Harris single and stolen base, Demino smacked an RBI single up the middle to give Huntingtown its first lead. Aberdeen’s third fielding error and Demino’s heads up play on the next at-bat padded the Hurricanes’ lead.

Gorlaski lifts Cougars to final

With his sweat-soaked jersey untucked and hair pointing every which way, Pat Goralski emerged from the bottom of Chesapeake’s celebratory dogpile following his walk-off RBI single in the Cougars’ 4-3 victory. By the look of things, Goralski had grinded through every minute of Wednesday’s eight-inning thriller against Damascus. But all the senior pinch-hitter needed was one at-bat and two appearances in the field to make his impact felt.

With Damascus (15-6) runners at each base and one out in the seventh, Goralski sparked a double play that slammed the door on the Swarmin’ Hornets’ hopes of salvaging a game they once led 3-0.

After a Blake Rebstock single and two sacrifice plays moved the decisive run into scoring position, Goralski stepped to the plate for the first time all evening.

Though his rust was evident when a change-up caught him by surprise, the senior honed in on the next pitch, a fastball that he belted into shallow center field to plate the decisive run for Chesapeake (22-3).

“I know to always be ready in those situations so it wasn’t all that different to be in there with the game on the line,” Goralski said. “I just tried to get in the pitcher’s mind and hunt for fastballs until I got one.”

Spalding earns three-peat

In other playoff action, Spalding won its third straight MIAA A title with a 5-3 victory against Gilman. A day after dropping their first game in the double-elimination tournament, the Cavaliers quickly bounced back with three run-scoring doubles in the first inning to take a commanding early lead.

After Gilman scored twice, David Harding’s RBI triple in the fourth and Zach Thompson’s complete-game effort on the mound kept Spalding in control en route to its fourth overall conference title.