ABERDEEN, Md. — Even as batter after batter filed into the dugout, some fuming with frustration over another strikeout, McDonough’s baseball team held out hope. The Rams had never been at this juncture, playing on the final day of Maryland’s high school spring sports calendar, but they had been in this situation, down late before erasing the deficit on five occasions.
Yet as Saturday’s hole grew from one run to four in the top of the seventh inning of the Class 1A baseball state final against Brunswick, the Rams started to sense that their unprecedented postseason march would end in bittersweet fashion.
“We’ve had a great run, and when it was 1-0, we thought we could come back,” Rams senior Dale Arbaugh III said. “But when the score gets up like it did and they had no errors up to that point, you start to think things might not go your way.”
On this day, things didn’t. McDonough’s last three batters were no match for Brunswick pitcher Andrew Wanger, who recorded two of his 13 strikeouts to send the Rams to a 4-0 loss at Ripken Stadium. But after McDonough Coach Mike Lydon broke the final huddle of the season, the Rams walked away convinced that, in the grand scheme of things, the 2015 campaign indeed did go their way — and more.
“Our goals this year were to be above .500, don’t get run-ruled in a loss and make it to the region championship,” Lydon said. “We far exceeded that by making it here.”
Along the way, the Rams (16-6) showed both tenacity — count their first region title among the quintet of comeback victories — and timeliness, averaging nearly seven runs and eight hits per game. Brunswick (23-2), however, worked to ensure those elements were contained Saturday.
Arbaugh also battled on the mound for McDonough, following up a rocky start with three no-hit innings before moving to first base in the sixth, just opposite third baseman Kendric Musser. After missing the previous six games with an elbow injury, that was the role in which the Rams sophomore was relegated, some 60 feet from the mound where he usually served as the team’s ace.
Musser’s third-inning single was the first of just four McDonough hits, far from enough to match the Railroaders. But Musser found comfort from the promising group that greeted him, one that featured 12 underclassmen, including its top two pitchers.
“I just told myself that we’ll have to come back here next year for a different result,” Musser said. “It’s been a team effort, with everyone working hard, and now we know what it takes.”