The Falcons of Overlea don't want to be late for their prom Friday night, so they plan on dancing around the basepaths that afternoon as the state Class 2A/1A baseball regional playoffs begin.
Barring a major upset today against Sparrows Point or tomorrow against Milford Mill, No. 10-ranked Overlea (14-2) will have the first or second seed and a home-field advantage on Friday.
Catcher John Swigart's booming three-run home run this past Friday against Hereford pretty much assured it as the Falcons rolled to a 12-0 victory over their closest competitors in the Baltimore County 2A/1A league.
"I didn't expect a fastball in that situation," said Swigart, who is headed for Towson State next fall on a football scholarship. "Everybody's hitting and [pitcher] Steve Lockett had his wicked curveball and changeup under control. He really had Hereford messed up."
Lockett threw only 71 pitches in seven innings to raise his record to 3-0. He missed the first five games of the season with tendinitis in his shoulder. Coach Dave O'Neill limited Lockett's pitches to 50 per outing when he returned. But in Lockett's first game back, he went all the way into the fifth inning against Milford Mill before reaching his limit.
Yet the real turnaround this season, said O'Neill, has been the contagious hitting.
"John Goff fears no pitcher and when we put him in the leadoff spot, he seemed to instill confidence in everyone," said O'Neill.
With a solid .340 batting average, Goff still takes a back seat to nTC sophomore Chuck Feehely (.407), Lockett (.417), Swigart (.486) and centerfielder Ralph Boarman (.541).
"The opposition has tried to pitch around Swigart," said O'Neill, "and Boarman, batting behind John in the lineup, has 27 RBIs."
Boarman collected two more against Hereford Friday, following a walk to Swigart, and raised his on-base average to .733.
"We expected a good season, but didn't know how much the three sophomores would help us," said O'Neill. "Feehely's been a real plus, a natural at first base. Mark Truszkowski, a shortstop, is 4-0 on the mound and Brian Lijewski, our backup catcher, has done really well as a designated hitter."
Senior Dave Filipkowski (.283), a steady glove man in the middle infield, has begun to swing with authority and senior Steve Dietrich still rates the staff "ace" label with a 4-0 record.
"We'd like to start our playoff game as early as 2 p.m. so the kids don't miss the boat [the Lady Baltimore]," said O'Neill.
The Falcons' first-round opponent won't be known until Wednesday. Despite being regular playoff participants, the Falcons haven't gotten as far as the state semifinals since 1987. They're enjoying more pitching depth this year and that could prove to be the difference.