A couple shakes and a few swings into the humid air is all Jack Barry had to get acquainted with his new bat during the fifth inning of Tuesday’s Maryland 3A baseball state semifinal against Thomas Johnson.

By Barry’s estimation, the bat of Reservoir teammate John Mierzwa didn’t feel “that much different” than his own, which had snapped in two during his previous at-bat. And ultimately, the result wasn’t all that different, either.

Barry used his borrowed tool to belt a two-run homer over the left field fence, adding another hit to the Gators’ 15 on the day in a 12-4 win at Joe Cannon Stadium in Hanover. With the victory, Reservoir secured its first state title game appearance in Saturday’s final against North Harford, which won, 8-2, against La Plata in the other semifinal.

“I’ve never seen one of those bats break before; it was the weirdest thing,” Barry said of his aluminum bat. “I just picked John’s bat because I had it swung it once last year. Thankfully, it ended up working out pretty good.”

Just as successful, thanks to the timely hits of Barry and his Gator teammates, was Coach Adam Leader’s strategy to let ace Cody Morris pitch just four innings before resting for Saturday.

Mierzwa got the offense rolling with a sacrifice fly and RBI single in the second and fourth frames, respectively, before the Gators (21-2) added three runs in the top of the fifth. Morris not only helped maintain the lead by striking out nine batters and allowing just two hits in four scoreless innings, but he also helped his cause by going 3 for 4 at the plate.

Once Morris left the mound, the Patriots (9-16) began to rally, quickly loading the bases before scoring four runs in the fifth inning. But the Gators responded with four more hits and four more runs, punctuated by Barry’s two-run blast and Joe Kearney’s second RBI of the game.

La Plata comes up short

En route to its fourth straight state semifinal appearance, La Plata had demonstrated a knack for racking up runs and mustering comebacks. As North Harford raced out to a sizable lead in the middle innings, both the Warriors and their raucous fans held out hope that the team had one more rally left in its tank.

Four hits and two runs came in the bottom of the seventh, but it wasn’t enough to overcome three errors and a strong pitching performance by North Harford’s Brian Shaffer during an 8-2 loss.

Shaffer also hit one of two Hawks home runs to help his team score eight unanswered runs against the Warriors (20-4). La Plata’s Jimmy Monaghan sparked a flurry of hits in the seventh with a single to right field that ultimately led to runs scored by Kyle Edelen and Simeon Spruill before Shaffer ended the threat with his 10th strikeout.

“Their pitcher was great tonight and we kept trying to pick our offense up but we just couldn’t get the hits and plays that we needed,” Warriors senior Alex Calvert said. “Both teams came to play, but it just wasn’t our night.”

Southern advances

Behind John Artale’s four scoreless innings of relief pitching, the Bulldogs (15-8) surged past Hereford for a 6-2 win in the Maryland 2A state semifinals in Silver Spring.

Garrett Gibson’s RBI single in the fourth inning broke a 2-2 tie and Dillon Waters’s two-run triple in the next inning made for the final margin to advance Southern to Saturday’s championship game.