For an instant, yesterday's Class 2A state semifinal baseball game against Middletown conjured up memories of Northeast's 6-5 season-ending state semifinal loss to Edgewood a year ago.
The top-seeded two-time Region III champion Eagles trailed, 2-0, in the bottom of the first. And they were facing the Knights' fastballing left-hander, MattHelfer, who had lost just once in 10 starts.
But order was restored by the top of the fourth as the Eagles held an 8-2 lead and had laid waste to Helfer for six hits, including a second-inning Don Shump three-run homer, en route to a 13-3 victory.
It was Shump's sixth home run of the year.
"At first, I was like, this is how it happened last year," said Shump, a senior third baseman who went 2-for-4 and raised his RBI total to a single-season county record 44.
Shump, who crossed the plate three times, also holds the state RBI record with 80.
Northeast (23-0) is on its way to Saturday's 10 a.m. championship game against Hammond, a 7-6 winner over two-time state runner-up Edgewood. Northeast defeated Hammond earlier this season. Coach Harry Lentz, in his 24th season, will be trying to win his first title since winning in 1975.
Shump said Middletown (16-5) looked tough to beat after having eliminated two-time defending state champion Allegany, 7-3, for the Region I title Monday.
But not that tough.
"We've been down in the first inning a lot this year, but Coach doesn't mind us being behind because we know we can come back," he said. "That's what kind of team we are. We have so much hitting."
On the day, the Eagles had nine hits behind Shump, catcher Rich Speigel (2-for-4, two RBI), right fielder Chad O'Brien (2-for-4, two RBI), and first baseman Russ Curry (1-for-4, one RBI).
Curry increased his single-season RBI total to 38 and Speigel to 35.John Hagen, Speigel's pinch-runner, scored three times.
Shump began the Eagles' second inning by reaching first on a third baseman's error. Then Curry and Derek Dolch walked to load the bases and Speigelnailed a two-run single to tie the game at two.
O'Brien followed with a two-run triple to give the Eagles a lead they never relinquished -- including a four-run fourth that gave Northeast a commanding 12-2 lead.
"I started off slow at the beginning of the year, but Coach has worked with me on hitting in practice," said O'Brien, a juniortransfer from Archbishop Spalding who was 5-for-5 in a previous 16-1win over Frederick Douglass.
Helfer left the mound for good in the fourth after giving up his fifth walk on the first batter of the inning. He had five strikeouts and was relieved by shortstop Brian Cline.
"My arm was hurting so bad that I couldn't feel anything after a while," said Helfer. "My arm felt like a rubber band. It's a shame."
Northeast pitcher Craig Everett went the distance with nine strike outs against three walks and four hits to improve his record to 8-0 -- 12-0 for his career.
After walking Cline, the first batter ofthe game, Everett struck out the next batter before giving up a Jason Lucas infield single that put Cline on third after he had stolen second base. Cline then crossed the plate on a double-steal and Lucas later scored from third when Curry committed his third error of the year.
But with the exception of Clint Masser, who scored in the sixth on a fielder's choice, that was it for the Knights.
Everett recovered to retire eight in a row through the third and fifth innings --including five consecutive strikeouts. With the score 7-2 in the third inning and runners on second and third, Everett whiffed Pat Borawski for the third out.
"My curve was working really well and the umpire helped me out a little," said Everett, who entered with a 1.92 ERA and now has 47 strikeouts on the year. "Once I got my changeup andcurves going, they couldn't do anything."