Of all the motivational chirps and verbal encouragements lobbed at Potomac School pitcher Carter Bosch throughout his eight innings on the mound during Tuesday’s Mid-Atlantic Athletic Conference championship game in McLean, one question from second baseman Matthew Plaza stood out.
“How bad do you want it, Bosch?” he asked, as the Georgetown commit worked his way through the Saint James lineup for the third time.
Bosch answered over and over again in the Panthers’ 3-2 walk-off nine-inning win over the Saints, pitching into extra innings and hitting a game-tying double with one out left in the bottom of the seventh.
Bosch’s performance helped the Panthers (14-5) win an outright MAC title for the first time in team history. This was their fifth tournament win, but they had never before won the regular season and the tournament in the same year.
“This game was important to me. This was a chance to do something pretty special as a senior,” Bosch said.
After Saint James took a 2-1 lead on a bloop single in the top of the seventh, Plaza started a rally with a leadoff double in the bottom of the inning. Two outs later there were men on the corners and Bosch was at the plate. Staring down the end of his high school baseball career, he sent a line drive to Potomac School’s short right field fence. It was ruled a ground-rule double as the ball skidded into a neighboring house’s backyard. Tie game.
“It was fitting of him,” Coach Eric Crozier said. “He’s a guy that has a lot on him and he has to live up to that hype. He keeps finding a way to get it done.”
In extras, senior Thomas Riley reached base on a controversial safe call at first and quickly stole second. On Plaza’s single up the middle, Riley raced toward home and the title seemed to be in hand. But a dart from the center fielder reached the plate first, Riley was out, and the game continued.
Senior Brenden Mabus relieved Bosch in the ninth after the senior reached his pitch limit. He struck out a batter and got a lunging catch from center fielder Michael Valentine to set up what would become his own heroic half-inning.
In 2016, the Panthers won the MAC tournament on a walk-off single. This year, Mabus had a chance to do the same thing.
He came to the plate in the bottom of the ninth with one out and the bases loaded. A pop fly would do it. So would a well-placed grounder. Mabus waited for his pitch, and on a 3-2 count he finally got it. A ball four.
The winning run walked home, and the Panthers mobbed Mabus at first base.
“We talked about it all season, but this was one of the first games where we fought back and got through it,” Bosch said. “We lost a couple after getting down this season, but I had no doubt in my mind today. We just really wanted it.”