ABERDEEN, Md. — La Plata outfielder Peytyn Gray watched the belt-high pitch go by him and stood frozen at the plate. He slowly took off his helmet and dropped his bat as Century formed a celebratory mob in front of him. By the time Gray had gotten both batting gloves removed his entire team stood behind him, ready to shake the hands of the Knights, the new Maryland 2A champions.
There were a few things that led up to that final strike in La Plata’s 4-1 loss. A handful of errors, some missed opportunities and one very strong opposing pitcher. But none of them really mattered in that final moment. To the Warriors, it only meant their season, impressive as it was, was over.
“Afterward I thanked the seniors for the contributions they made to this program and challenged the younger guys to get better in the offseason so we can be on the other end of that score next year,” Coach John Childers said.
Saturday’s loss wasn’t the conclusion of a Cinderella story. The Warriors (20-6) were playing for their second 2A title in the three years since they moved down from 3A. They won it all in 2016 and made it to last year’s semifinals.
Two big errors hurt the Warriors early, keeping both the second and third innings alive for Century to score. Senior Zach Raico hit a three-run home run to left with two outs in the top of the second, and a mishandled groundball with a man on third made it 4-0 in the third.
“We made a couple errors that opened the innings up for them. If we make the plays we’re right there in a 1-1 game late against a good team,” Childers said.
La Plata came in on a 10-game win streak during which it averaged 11.7 runs. Facing a 4-0 hole heading into the bottom of the third, it was clear the Warriors would need their bats to come alive if they wanted a shot at the title.
But Jeremy Lapp, Century’s senior starter and a West Virginia commit, had his fastball working from the first inning and La Plata struggled to catch up.
“We didn’t see the [velocity] we saw today. We didn’t see much of it late in the season so it made it tough for our guys to adjust,” Childers said.
The Warriors didn’t pick up their first hit until the fourth, when junior Austin Brown timed one right and hit a hard single to right with two outs. A walk followed, and suddenly the door cracked open. David Hayes’s RBI single officially made it a rally and got the Warriors on the board.
La Plata loaded the bases with one out in the fifth, but Lapp got a strikeout and a deep fly to wiggle out of the jam. It was a missed opportunity for the Warriors, one that would haunt them as they went quietly in the sixth and seventh.
“They were a good team, putting up four runs in two innings,” Brown said. “We got punched in the mouth and we tried to come back but we fell short.”