After reaching the state championship game twice in a row, Edgewood's baseball team had great expectations for this year's postseason, too.
But the Rams (17-6) had to settle for making the state final four for three straight years. Hammond put an end to the Rams' title bid Tuesday with a 7-0 victory over Edgewood in a state Class 2A semifinal game at Joe Cannon Stadium in Anne Arundel County.
This loss was no easier for the Rams than their losses to Allegany in the last two state finals.
"The kids expected to be there (Saturday's state title game)," said Edgewood coach Steve Williams. "It's really difficult for the seniors. They know every time they go out there, it's the last time ever if they lose. I know they're disappointed."
Still, the way the Rams started out their season, they needed a big finish just to qualify for the regionals. "In the first half of the season, we struggled to find ourselves," said Williams, who had five starters return. "We didn't do well early. We were 6-4, but inthe second half, we turned on the jets."
The Rams, who last won astate title in 1981, also came close to elimination in the regional playoffs. After beating Fallston, 8-5, in the opener, they edged James M. Bennett, 4-3, in Monday's finale.
Against Bennett, Jamie Coons drove in the winning run in the bottom of the seventh after the Rams had trailed much of the game. Coons, a sophomore outfielder, also hit a two-run homer in the fourth inning.
In Tuesday's state semifinal, the Rams ran into the hottest pitcher they had faced all year. Hammond hurler Joe Nestor gave up only two hits and struck out eight Rams.
"He had us on our heels the whole game," said Williams. "Whena kid mixes pitches like that and keeps you off-balance, he has a good chance. He put us to sleep. This was the easiest game I've ever coached. We only had two guys get past first base."
The Rams only managed four base runners all day. They had two in the sixth when Nestor allowed his only walk.
Wade Greason led off the second inning with a double and was hit by a pitch in the fourth. Eric Santana singled in the sixth and then Brian Kocur followed with a walk, but Nestor struck out Corey Anderson and Greason to end the inning.
Hammond (19-4) got four runs in the first inning, as the Bears hit for the cycle. Mark Salerno smashed a homer over the left field fence. The Bearsalso took advantage of a walk and a couple of wild pitches by starter Greason.
Williams lifted Greason in the second inning for Santana. The senior veteran retired 11 batters in a row before Mike Alvareztripled to right center in the fifth. Alvarez scored on a balk.
Santana gave up another run on a balk in the sixth inning. The Bears final run scored on a sacrifice bunt.
Santana allowed just two hitswhile striking out six and walking two.
Havre de Grace also reached the state baseball final four, but the Warriors didn't have any better luck than the Rams.
The Warriors (8-12) fell, 11-1, to Brunswick in a state Class 1A semifinal game Tuesday at Arundel High School. Scott Frye pitched a three-hitter and struck out 11 for top-seeded Brunswick, of Frederick County.
Walt Blethen knocked a solo homer in the second inning to put the Warriors ahead, but the Railroaders scored all of their runs in the next three innings. The Warriors had a couple of throwing errors, but Brunswick had little trouble hitting Mark Glassman.
Brunswick got 13 hits off Glassman, who pitched the complete game. Only two of hits were for extra bases -- both doubles.
"We probably should have lost, 4-1 or 5-1," said Warriors' coach Larry Fox. "We were just outclassed by their pitching. If I gettheir pitcher and they get mine, we win, 4-1 or 4-0."
The Warriors barely qualified for the regional playoffs. They beat out Kent by two points after knocking off Bel Air in the final week of the regularseason.
Once in the regionals, the Warriors topped Perryville, 5-4, in the first round and edged Joppatowne, 2-1, in the final. Against the Mariners, Randy Wheeler pitched a strong game. The Warriors scored both runs on sacrifice flies.
The only other Harford County team to get as far as the regional finals was Bel Air. The Bobcatsupset C. Milton Wright in the semifinal before falling to Dundalk, 5-4, in the regional championship game Monday at Dundalk Community College.
Paul Daniele drove in two runs and Jason Castillo another for the the Bobcats (13-7). Bel Air had leads of 2-1 and 3-2 before Dundalk put together a fourth inning with three doubles and a single to take a 5-3 lead.
In the 5-4 semifinal victory over C. Milton Wright, Jason Pruitt drove in the game winner in the top of the 13th inning. Pruitt, a .500 batter who was 5-for-7 in the game, smacked a single up the middle to score Castillo from third.