The baseball diamond at North Harford sits high on a hill above the stadium. Everything drains off this field including, it seems, last year's problems.
On the hill, first-year coach Tim Larrimore and a strong group of holdovers from a disappointing 1990 hatched a plan to rebound from that 6-13 season. Tuesday, they pulled off the upset of the season so far, surprising Edgewood, 11-10.
Rick Johnson scored the winning run in the bottom of the sixth inning. The senior reached on a fielder's choice, took second on a passed ball, went to third on Matt Machala's single and scored on a wild pitch.
"This is probably the biggest win of the season," said Johnson, the Hawks' first baseman. "It showed us what we could do. We know we've got it this year."
The Hawks (3-1 going into Friday's game) suffered their first setback Wednesday to Bel Air, 5-3. They got 11hits against Edgewood but only managed three at Bel Air. Still, the Hawks could match their win total from all of last year sometime nextweek.
"They'll realize now that they're not unbeatable by a long way," said Hawks' coach Tim Larrimore. "But they know they still can contend with any ball team."
The Hawks proved that they are contenders in Tuesday's victory over visiting Edgewood (4-2 after Wednesday's 10-8 win over Joppatowne). The Rams are the defending champs in the Class 2A region, which includes the Hawks.
After Johnson scored North Harford's winning run, the Hawks had to play flawless defense to hold it. With two out in the seventh, the Rams had a chance to rally.
With Brian Sordillo on first, Brian Kocur smacked a single to left center. Hawks' center-fielder Sam Powell bobbled the ball for a split-second. Edgewood coach Steve Williams let Sordillo round second and head for third base. Powell gunned the runner down in a close call. Williams didn't dispute the call, but his own judgment.
"What can I say? The coach is an idiot," said Williams, laughing. "I did notthrow up a flag, and he came around.
"I've been preaching run, run, run since day one. We're gonna keep running, and some days it's going to work, and some days it's not. Unfortunately, today was one of those days when it didn't."
Tuesday was also a day when Rams' starting pitcher Eric Santana proved unusually streaky.
The senior right-hander, still recovering from an early season muscle pull, put the first five Hawks on base. He walked three and gave up a double and a triple. Then, Santana struck out three of the last four batters to end the inning.
Santana faced all but one batter in the game, giving up 10 hits and seven walks while striking out nine.
Williams didn't attribute the loss completely to Santana's troubles or to the Rams' three fielding errors. "You've got to give North Harford credit. This is a good team we lost to. The top of their lineup was swinging the bat, and they've got four or five guys who can turn on a baseball," said Williams, whose team had three-run leads twice -- 3-0 in the first inning and 10-7 in the fifth.
Powell, Chris Mills, Mike Lynch and Dick Hughes led the Hawks with two hits each. Mills knocked in three runs with a triple and a single, while Hughes also had three RBI on a pair of singles. Powell knocked over two runs with a pair of doubles.
The Rams, who never had more than a one-run lead, also hitthe ball well, especially off starter Mills. The sophomore gave up
eight hits while walking four and striking out four.
Reliever Glenn Upton came on in the fifth inning to give the Rams all kinds of trouble. The senior side-arm hurler gave up three hits in two and two-thirds innings, but he also struck out three.
"You don't see that side-arm motion very often in high school," said Williams. "You've got to go through the lineup once or twice to get a look at it. You can't jump on it right away."
For the Rams, who don't have a real power hitter in the lineup, Tuesday's slugfest was one of their best offensive efforts so far.
Greg Watchinsky led the Rams going 3-for-4 with two singles, a double and three RBI. Wade Greason knocked in tworuns with a triple and a single.