ABERDEEN, Md. — Huntingtown wasn’t even supposed to be here, facing the last three outs of its season at Ripken Stadium in the Maryland 3A championship game. The Hurricanes’ season was supposed to end long ago, after a 3-6 start portended a rare down year for a team that won a state title in 2016.
Clayton Wargo’s deep flyout to center was the final out in a 3-2 loss, securing a title for Thomas Johnson. Wargo sat crouched on the ground for a long time afterward, his bat still in hand.
But Hurricanes Coach Guy Smith knew all along his team wasn’t going to have a down year, even after that rocky start. He knew that his team had just been a bit unlucky, running into a string of great arms and dealing with injuries early in the season. He knew they had the talent to make it to Aberdeen and here they were.
Maybe that’s what made those final outs a little more painful for the Hurricanes (16-9) Saturday. They had been behind early in their season and come back, and they had been down 3-1 early in this game. Another comeback would be a storybook finish. But they couldn’t quite make it happen.
“This is a young team but we weren’t playing for next year. I told my wife at home we had a chance to get here and I really believed that,” Smith said. “And it happened. We got here. But in one game you never know what’s going to happen.”
Huntingtown finished with eight hits, three more than Thomas Johnson (14-5), but the Hurricanes couldn’t get them when it mattered most. Starter Spencer Cooper settled in after giving up four hits and three runs in the first two innings.
“We still were in it, we still had our heart in it, but it was frustrating,” Cooper said.
Wargo’s sacrifice fly in the first inning was the Hurricanes’ only offensive success for the first hour of play. It wasn’t until the fifth inning that things came alive again on Caleb Karbowsky’s RBI single up the middle. That hit awoke the large Huntingtown crowd that had made the 90-minute trip and it felt like a rally was coming. But a deadly double play ball ended that inning and Huntingtown entered the sixth down one.
They did it again in the sixth, loading the bases with just one out. Surely this would be the inning they broke through, the payoff for all their hits and base runners. But another perfect double play ball, a grounder that nearly hit the second base bag, ended that inning too.
“I told them to keep getting themselves in that situation and hopefully a ball will fall in,” Smith said of the double plays. “Unfortunately it just didn’t today. They did a very good job defensively, I don’t think they made a mistake.”
After the trophy ceremony, a long team huddle and the emotional, methodical packing of all their gear, the Hurricanes made their way into the lower bowl of seats, receiving a round of applause from their fans.