ABERDEEN, Md. — The McDonough baseball team entered the Maryland 1A playoffs with a record just one game above .500. Still, the Rams told each other their goal was to make the state championship.
“If you believe in yourself,” McDonough senior Sean Joseph said, “there’s always a chance you can do it.”
McDonough fell in last year’s state semifinals, and with the majority of those players back, the seniors wanted a trip to Ripken Stadium. The Rams began playing with more aggression and focus, coasting to the Maryland 1A South title before reaching the Maryland 1A championship Saturday afternoon. The Rams kept pace with Colonel Richardson until the ninth inning, when the Colonels scored six runs to win, 6-0, and take the championship.
“We got to be proud,” Joseph said. “We can’t be anything else. This is something not many people could do, especially against this team.”
On Tuesday, McDonough (13-9) topped Randallstown to reach its first Maryland state championship since 2015, when it lost to Brunswick. The Rams have never won the state crown.
Pitcher Austin Simms kept Caroline County’s Colonel Richardson (24-0) off-balance by throwing seven scoreless innings Saturday, but the Colonels broke through in the ninth.
After loading the bases, the Colonels scored twice on walks. Then outfielder Jackie Zebron knocked a run-three double to left field. Colonel Richardson shortstop Ty Scott capped the frame with a sacrifice fly. McDonough loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth but couldn’t capitalize.
“We played well,” McDonough senior L.J. Mortimer said. “We had big energy the whole game until they scored.”
McDonough Coach Mike Lydon knew before the season that this year’s team could compete for a state title with 11 seniors. The leader of that class Saturday was Simms. Lydon figured Simms could develop into a star when he played on varsity as a sophomore.
“He’s a bulldog,” Lydon said. “He’s gotten much better in the three years.”
After the game, many McDonough players held back tears as they accepted their medals and posed with the state runner-up trophy. But as they reflected on this year’s journey, they left the stadium content.
“We’ve struggled this season; I’m not going to lie,” Joseph said. “But in the playoffs we turned it on. We worked hard to get here.
“We played one of the best teams in Maryland right now, and it took them until the ninth inning to score six runs. It’s a sad, tough loss, but we played hard.”