ABERDEEN, Md. — Ryan Kulick almost blacked out standing on first base Friday night at Ripken Stadium. His teammates in light blue jerseys and white pants came racing from the dugout in a blur, their bodies jumping in the air and their hats barely staying atop their heads as they made their way to him.
In the dogpile that followed, Kulick went down to the ground, the joy of his yelling teammates’ atop him creating a rush of energy as he realized what he had just done. The junior designated hitter was the Howard hero in the team’s 5-4 win against Severna Park (21-4) in the Maryland 4A baseball championship game.
Kulick’s two-out, two-run single up the middle in the bottom of the seventh inning scored Jerry O’Neill and capped a four-run rally that gave Howard (20-5) its first baseball title in program history and created the chaos that followed.
“It’s insane,” Kulick said, sweat still dripping from his face after the win. “We have been around for a very long time and we always had teams that could do this, and we were the first that could capitalize on it.”
Howard came back to this year’s title game looking to seek redemption after losing last year’s championship game, 8-0, to Northwest. The title game was also a rematch of last year’s semifinal, in which the Lions stunned Severna Park, 4-3, en route to their championship game appearance.
“These boys are just resilient, and they never give up,” Howard Coach Nick Hoffner said. “That was two outs there in the seventh inning, and these boys just don’t quit. They believe they can win, and that is why we were able to come back and win that baseball game.”
Howard held a 1-0 lead through six innings after Lions first baseman Matt Flynn hit an RBI single to right-center in the bottom of the first inning. It wasn’t until Severna Park’s breakthrough sixth and seventh innings that they got on the scoreboard, bringing home four batters for a 4-1 lead after the top of the seventh.
But for Howard, this was its moment. After they had only three hits heading into the seventh, the Lions’ bats came alive and their patience paid off with a total of three hits and three walks to close the game and secure the championship.
Howard right-hander Gabe Delgado pitched 6⅓ scoreless innings and struck out seven before finishing the night after reaching the maximum number of pitches allowed (105) in the top of the seventh.
Falcons pitcher Cameron Clark struck out 11 batters before reaching his maximum pitch count limit. He was replaced by sophomore pitcher Evan Lewis, who allowed the last two walks and walk-off single for Howard.
“To come out here this year and play well, have the lead, then go behind and then to come back and win it, you can’t write it up better than this,” Hoffner said.