Second in a line of equally heartbroken Quince Orchard players stretched along the infield, Nick Moon stared right into the heart of Bel Air’s celebration following its 8-1 win in Friday’s Maryland 4A baseball state final. The senior’s mind, however, had wandered elsewhere.
At first, though he tried not to, Moon reflected on the missed opportunities that had left six runners stranded on base against the Bobcats. But ultimately Moon circled back to the start of the playoffs, when Quince Orchard was battling to avoid a No. 4 tournament seed. Four weeks later, after knocking off last year’s state champion Gaithersburg en route to the region title, here the Cougars were, one of the final two teams standing in Maryland’s highest classification.
“I’m so proud of this team,” said Moon, who drove in Quince Orchard’s lone run Friday on a fourth-inning double. “We came into the season knowing we had talent, but we weren’t as close as a group like we are now, and that’s what helped us turn things on in the playoffs.”
Well aware of the momentum the Cougars (18-6) were riding, Bel Air jumped out to an early lead with two runs on four hits through the first three innings. Though a double play ended a Quince Orchard scoring threat in the second, the Cougars cut into the deficit two innings later on a Moon RBI double that scored Kyle Rinehimer.
They remained within striking distance as starting pitcher Nick Wong retired six of Bel Air’s next seven batters. But with runners again on the corners in the top of the sixth, the Bobcats induced a pop-up that left Quince Orchard empty-handed.
“We had some hacks, but we didn’t really barrel the ball like we needed or wanted to,” Rinehimer said. “We came in expecting an intense game, and for five innings, we handled it well. We just couldn’t get it done as a team in the end.”
On the other hand, the floodgates opened for the Bobcats (19-4) in the sixth inning. After loading the bases with no outs, Liam Bowers brought all three runners home on a double to the outfield. Two more hits produced three more runs to give the Bobcats a commanding lead, and in the end, the championship.
After speaking to his team following the loss, Quince Orchard Coach Jason Gasaway dismissed his underclassmen and took a moment to address each of his eight seniors individually.
It’s a ritual that Gasaway has done after each of his 12 seasons at the helm. But on Friday, as he looked into the teary eyes of the boys who had led the Cougars to their first state final since 2009, he felt a bit more of a tug than usual on his heartstrings.
“When you have kids for four years and watch them grow up, you just want to let them know how much you appreciate what they’ve done for this program,” Gasaway said. “To make it this far, you have to be pretty amazing, and that’s what these guys are.”